A lawsuit filed against the Heber Springs School District ended two weeks ago in the U.S. District Court in Batesville. Roger and Dawn Fires on behalf of “Child Doe” against the Heber Springs School District filed a complaint in 2011 with the court, Superintendent Russell Hester (individually and in his capacity as Superintendent), Ginger Wallace (individually and as Principal of the high school), and Brad Reese (individually and as Assistant Principal of the High School). Roger and Dawn Fires alleged that the school district violated the child’s civil rights and due process when they suspended and punished the child for an incident the previous year.
According to the case file, on April 1, 2010 the Heber Springs Girls Softball Team were returning from an out of town game when the girls on the bus pulled an “April Fool’s Day” prank on another girl riding in a separate vehicle. The suit states that several members on the bus called the girl in the other vehicle and told her the “bus had been involved in a motor vehicle accident before the group of teammates on the bus shouted, ‘April Fools’, and then hung up the phone.” ‘Child Doe’ then called the girl again to make sure she understood the call was only a prank. The suit also claimed that the girls told the coach about the prank upon exiting the bus, but no reprimands were given out.
The suit went on to say that all of the girls involved in the prank were called into the office the next day and Wallace instructed them to separately write down their account of the previous night’s incident. ‘Child Doe’ was later called back to the office and suspended. The suit also claimed that the child was forced to ‘publicly clean and detail District school busses without recourse of pay, which included the use of chemicals that were harmful and toxic without instruction and proper equipment.
The Fires claimed that the actions taken against the girl violated her right to due process and unfairly affected her right to an education under the law.
The jury trial for the case began March 18 and lasted four days. Three days prior, the case against Wallace and Reese were dismissed without prejudice. After almost four hours of deliberation on March 21, the jury found in favor of the Fires; however, the financial settlement for the Fires was only in the amount of $1.00.
“The jury found us lacking in procedure and to that effect we lost,” said Superintendent Hester. “The verdict shows, in my opinion, that the jury recognized that the lawsuit was frivolous.”