A former Concord-Carlisle High School student who says she was mercilessly bullied for a year and a half while administrators ignored her pleas for help filed a $2 million federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the towns of Concord and Carlisle, the Concord-Carlisle school district, and three school officials.
Isabella “Belle” Hankey, now 18, alleges in the suit that the abuse, which she says included death threats, crude slurs carved into her car, and feces being smeared on her car, caused her to suffer a pulmonary embolism and finish out her senior year in an alternative school. Each instance was reported to school administrators, according to the suit, and other students came forward with tips about who the perpetrators were, but the school allegedly took no action and destroyed records of the bullying.
In addition to the towns and school district, the suit names in their official and individual capacities Superintendent Diana Rigby, High School Principal Peter Badalament, and former Assistant Principal Alan Weinstein. Badalament declined to comment; Rigby and Weinstein could not be reached for comment.
Hankey’s suit is apparently one of the first to be brought in conjunction with the Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law, which went into effect in May 2010 after several high-profile bullying-related suicides in the state. The law aims to strengthen protections against bullying.
The suit says the bullying began in October of 2011, when someone keyed Hankey’s car while it sat in the high school parking lot.
She reported the vandalism to school officials including Weinstein, the former assistant principal, but the district allegedly did not investigate, according to the suit.
As the bullying continued, Badalament sent out a letter to parents and students and set up an anonymous email site where people could send information about who the perpetrators were, according to the suit, and the district received tips about a specific student as well as a group of sophomores who called themselves the “Sexy Seven” who may have been responsible.
Because she was scared to return to school, Hankey enrolled in a specialty program called “Rivers and Revolutions” where classes were held in a separate building from the main high school for her senior year.
Security cameras were eventually installed in the parking lot in September of 2012, which, according to the suit, was later than the family was promised. The same month, Hankey saw several messages on the school walls apparently directed at her, one of which was simply her name in a circle with a line struck through it.
In October of 2012, Hankey was hospitalized with a blood clot that the suit alleges was “directly related” to the stress of the bullying. Days later, she was hospitalized again with a pulmonary embolism.