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May 17. 2013 1:32AM

3 dropped from lawsuit against Raymond school district

RAYMOND — All claims against individual defendants named in a $1 million civil lawsuit filed against the Raymond School District have been dismissed by agreement.

Former superintendent Jeanne Richards, Raymond High School principal Kirk Beitler and former assistant principal Jayme Rodriguez had each been named in the original complaint which alleges that a student suffered from pervasive racial harassment during the 2010-2011 school year.

Three of five claims against the individuals had already been dismissed by summary judgment.

The agreement was reached during discussions in a pre-trial conference held May 10.

Jury selection in the remaining case against the Raymond School District is now scheduled to begin June 4. If the trial goes forward, it is expected to last about seven days.

But it may not get that far. According to a final pre-trial order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe Wednesday, the parties have committed to mediate the dispute before May 24. McAuliffe ordered that a mediation status report be filed by the parties on or before May 25.

Defense attorney Brian Cullen of the law firm CullenCollimore, PLLC in Nashua, said a mediation session is scheduled for Monday.

The original complaint was filed in October 2011 by parent "Bethany T." who alleges her son suffered pervasive racial harassment during the 2010-2011 school year and that the school district did not do enough to address or prevent the problem.

On Thursday, attorney for the plaintiff Karen Hewes notified the court that the student, who has been identified in court records as "T.T.," has reached the age of majority and intends to proceed on the claims alleged in the original complaint.

The school district has not disputed that "T.T." suffered racial harassment, but argue that it was adequately and appropriately handled in line with state law. Multiple incidents of student-on-student racial harassment suffered by "T.T." are documented in a Department of Education Office of Civil Rights report issued after an investigation conducted in 2011.

The district is seeking to exclude the report from the trial, saying the investigation was based on a different standard of law than a civil claim.

After that report was released, the district entered into a voluntary agreement with OCR in August 2011 to review their practices. That included bringing in an independent consultant who has made suggestions to the district that they continue to follow, Cullen said.

Cullen said Thursday he is pleased that the claims were dismissed against the individual defendants.

"All three are delighted to have their individual names cleared in this matter, and we look forward to presenting the evidence to defend the district at trial," Cullen said.

He said he believes they will be able to establish that the district responded appropriately and did not act in any way that warrants a verdict against it.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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