ANKENY, Iowa -- A lawsuit filed against the Ankeny School District alleges it didn't do enough to prevent the bullying of a student who suffered permanent brain damage as a result of an assault on school grounds.
Audrey Vacek is seeking damages for negligence from the school district and the family of the girl who attacked her. Vacek says the schools inaction allowed bullying to reach the point where a 17-year-old attacked her in a classroom at Ankeny High School. Vacek struck her head on a wall during that attack. The injuries she suffered lead to brain damage and recurrent panic attacks.
"Mallory", the girl who attacked Vacek, was punished in juvenile court, according to Vacek's lawsuit. It also claims part of "Mallory"'s sentence was to share anti-bullying speeches at Ankeny Centennial High School, where "Mallory" was forced to transfer. "Mallory" was then given an award for giving the speeches.
"Honestly, I was furious. It's just infuriating that even though she admitted to bullying me and assaulting me, she admitted it under oath, and they gave her an award," says Vacek, "The school knew that she admitted it, they knew everything and they still gave her an award."
The lawsuit claims that Vacek spoke to administrators including a Vice Principal and a School Counselor about the bullying long before the attack. Then, in September 2016, "Mallory" punched Vacek during Spanish class after the teacher had left the room. Mallory hit her head on the wall and at first thought she'd only suffered a concussion. After her symptoms failed to improve doctors diagnosed her with brain damage. It causes memory loss and panic attacks. Vacek says she was forced to quit the varsity volleyball team because of the threat of suffering a second, potentially fatal, head injury.
"We don't want this to happen to somebody else, it's too late for anything to help me because I have permanent brain damage from this and PTSD, but it's not too late for other students. "
The Ankeny School District says it can't speak directly about pending litigation but it defends its anti-bullying response.
"Ankeny Schools is sympathetic to the physical and emotional issues described in the student’s reported experience. Bullying behavior is taken seriously and not condoned in Ankeny Schools. There are policies and procedures in place for students who feel they experience bullying. When concerns or issues regarding student conduct arise, Ankeny Community Schools administrators investigate any reports and follow policy set by the Board of Education, based on the circumstances. We investigate every report we receive and do not take any allegation lightly. When fulfilling this duty, we respect the privacy of both those raising the concerns, as well as those whose actions are questioned."