Parent files complaint against school board after incident

Published 5:18 pm Thursday, October 17, 2013

The parent of a Chilton County student has filed a complaint against the Chilton County Board of Education following a physical altercation at school involving the student.

Belinda Hammock claims her 16-year-old son, Devon Hammock, was bullied by another student at LeCroy Career Technical Center on Sept. 16.

Hammock’s legal representation, McPhillips Shinbaum, L.L.P. of Montgomery, sent a notification letter dated Oct. 14 to the Chilton County Board of Education.

The letter says Devon Hammock was “wrongfully bullied” by a fellow student who was assisted by other young men.

The letter also says an adjacent person recorded video footage of the incident in a bathroom, and a copy of the video could be supplied.

The video shows two students (Student A and Student B) standing in a bathroom, facing and circling each other, their arms poised in front of their chests, their hands in fists.

Bystanders can be seen in the background.

Student A steps toward Student B, picks him up and takes him to the floor.

Student B scrambles up, and the two engage in hitting each other before Student A pushes Student B to the floor again.

Both students stand up again and begin hitting each other. Student A backs Student B into the sink and throws him to the floor again.

Student B lies on the floor without moving. Student A then carries him over to a stall, and the video ends with Student A’s back to the camera, still holding Student B.

Belinda Hammock said her son was knocked unconscious and was transported by ambulance to Shelby Baptist Hospital after the incident Sept. 16.

According to Hammock, her son had not had problems previously with the other students involved in the incident Sept. 16.

“They just picked him to pick on that day, I guess,” Hammock said. “He’s a real quiet person. As a mother, I decided I needed to step up and say something.”

The letter from McPhillips Shinbaum to the Chilton County Board of Education says criminal charges have been filed against one student (referred to as “the primary attacker”) for assault, “but we believe that the disciplinary action of dismissal and expulsion of the same young attacker and those others who aided and abetted him is appropriate.”

Mark Boardman, the Chilton County School System’s attorney in this case, said federal law prohibits the board from disclosing any particular disciplinary measure of any student.

“That law says that should we reveal that private information, we could lose all federal funding,” Boardman said. “The board has taken very appropriate disciplinary action.”

The letter also states, “Finally, please consider this a notification of claim for damages Chilton County School Board of Education, its Superintendent, and the Principal of Chilton County High School for an amount of damages up to the statutory limit allowed by law. Please have your attorney, insurance agent, or other proper representative contact either one of us within the next ten days from your receipt of this letter, to indicate what steps are being taken for further disciplinary measures, and what measure of damages that the school board will be willing to agree to, in order to resolve these claims.”

“They don’t know what disciplinary measures were first taken because we can’t tell them,” Boardman said. “When you read the letter, it doesn’t make any sense. If we reveal disciplinary information about a student and we lose federal funding and receive a [lawsuit], we really get in trouble.”

Boardman said the Chilton County Board of Education knew about the incident before receiving the notification letter from Hammock’s attorney.

At a meeting Oct. 15, the board approved placing a student in Chilton Alternative Program for 45 days. The student had the same name as the student referred to as the “primary attacker” of Devon Hammock in the letter from McPhillips Shinbaum.

Boardman did not confirm whether the student placed in the alternative program was the same student as the one involved in the Sept. 16 incident.

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden confirmed the board’s receipt of the letter Oct. 14 but declined to comment further.