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Ind. couple: School didn't shield son from bullies

November 15, 2011

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ST. JOHN, Ind.—A couple is suing their northwest Indiana school district, claiming school officials failed to protect their son from prolonged bullying over his Middle Eastern background that culminated in an attack this month that left him with a brain injury.

In their lawsuit filed Monday in Lake Superior Court, Osama and Hind Haddad contend that officials at Lake Central High School in St. John, about 35 miles southeast of Chicago, failed to protect their son, David Osama Haddad, from at least seven bullies even after it was brought to their attention. They are seeking unspecified damages.

Hind Haddad said at a news conference Monday that her son is being treated for a traumatic brain injury and is having trouble with his vision and balance since the Nov. 8 attack in a school hallway. Haddad's parents say they are natives of Jordan and that they've lived in the United States for more than 30 years.

Police are investigating the alleged attack, and charges could be filed within days, St. John Police Chief Fred Frego told The Associated Press on Tuesday. He said the Haddads had not contacted the department before last week.

Lawrence Veracco, the superintendent of the local district, the Lake Central School Corp., did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment left Tuesday at his office.

The family's attorney, Kenneth Allen, said the bullying started with verbal harassment, with Haddad being called "Little bin Laden" or "Little Osama," before it escalated threats of physical violence. Haddad's parents said a group of boys showed up at their house in January and tried to lure him outside to beat him up.

"The administration turned a blind eye to threats of violence -- to bullying," Allen said.

Allen said students gave Haddad gifts after Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi were killed.

Haddad's parents said he hasn't returned to school since the beating. Hind Haddad said she's afraid to send him back.