Grandmother plans to sue Opp schools

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2013

Janice Brannon stands outside Opp High School after Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Janice Brannon stands outside Opp High School after Wednesday’s school board meeting.

An Opp grandmother is calling for administrative action against an assistant principal/coach after she says he failed to follow school procedures when her grandson was assaulted in May.

Janice Brannon addressed the Opp City School Board Thursday about her concerns, and later confirmed to The Star-News that she plans to sue the school board because of the way the incident was handled.

Brannon said the incident occurred on May 3 between two juniors at Opp High School. The fight was broken up by OHS assistant principal Jimmy Reeves, who later called Brannon to come pick up her grandson. Brannon said the other boy “punched, stomped and kicked” her grandson and inflicted serious injuries that required medical attention. Brannon said she then filed a report of the assault with the Opp Police Department – an action that should have been handled by the school system. Since then, the case has been adjudicated through juvenile court. The aggressor was punished through the court system.

Brannon claims the incident “has just been swept under the rug,” and that Reeves failed to notify his superiors – a violation of school policy.

“I feel that y’all just don’t care,” Brannon said to school board members with tears streaming down her face. “As a parent, I want justice for my grandson. I feel that (the board’s actions) are racially motivated. My grandson is not safe at that school. One inch more and my grandson wouldn’t be here today.

“Your staff didn’t follow the proper procedure,” she said. “You didn’t do what you were supposed to do, and that’s the bottom line.”

OCS superintendent Michael Smithart said he notified the authorities, including the Department of Youth Services, as soon as he found out about the incident; however, Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald confirmed Wednesday that Brannon was the first to notify his department of the assault.

“This was an unfortunate incident,” Smithart said. “But your version of the truth takes a significant diversion to ours. I can provide the board with a written statement from (McDonald) and from the department of youth services that I contacted them on May 6.

“To say this was ‘swept under the rug’ is a mistake,” he said. “The incident has been dealt with. I resent the fact that you say we swept it under the rug. It’s been adjudicated through juvenile court.”

And Brannon didn’t dispute that, she said. After the board meeting, she told The Star-News that the boy who attacked her grandson was suspended and given 45 days of alternative school. Brannon’s grandson was not disciplined.

School board member Walter Burgess said, “If it were my child, I’d feel the same way. It was an unfortunate incident, but the boy that did it was punished on every level possible. The whole list. Your grandson was not. Administrators try their best to handle it and take those steps to manage it. We didn’t wipe it away, but they’re trying to handle it.”

School policy classifies fighting as a “class III violation, which constitute a violation of criminal laws established by local, state and federal authorities, and must be reported to the appropriate authorities.”

And that’s Brannon’s complaint – that she reported the incident to law enforcement, not the school board. As a result, she plans to file suit asking that Reeves face administrative action for not following school policy.

In other business, the board hired Josh Kyser as horticulture teacher at the high school; Lynn Freeney as special education teacher, and Karlotta Burgess as a school nurse.