Local News

Parents Of Hazing Victim File $40 Million Lawsuit Against Wayne County Schools

Posted August 22, 2003 1:28 a.m. EDT

— Accusations of hazing at a local high school resulted in a $40 million lawsuit.

The student's parents are suing. They accuse school leaders of not doing enough to protect their son.

"I think it is horrific," Jim Meeker said. "It is a travesty."

Jim and Debbe Meeker believe there is justice for their son in their federal lawsuit against the Wayne County Schools.

A lot of people may say $40 million is excessive. So how do the Meekers respond?

"They stole Bob's freshman year," Debbe said.

Said Jim: "There comes a point when they won't listen to you unless you are threatening them with monetary action."

The Meekers claim their son Bob's civil rights were violated in 2000 and 2001, when he was a freshman on the Rosewood High wrestling team. They say fellow players repeatedly hazed Bob with what is called a red belly. Three or more individuals hold the child down, lift his shirt and forcefully slap his stomach.

The lawsuit alleges wrestling coach Bill Edmundson not only knew about the behavior, but encouraged and condoned it as a form of peer-driven attitude adjustment.

"It changed him," Debbe Meeker said of Bob. "It made him not trust people."

The Meekers said Bob became so fed up that he finally came to school with a multi-purpose tool, which includes a knife, and threatened his fellow wrestlers. He was expelled.

"We don't have a specific policy that addresses hazing," Wayne County School spokesman Stan Alleyne said.

Alleyne would not comment on the specifics of the case. But he said existing policies work.

"There are a lot of safeguards in place to prevent children from getting hurt," he said.

For the Meekers, when it comes to hazing, a $40 million lawsuit is the way to protect children.