In a lawsuit seeking more than $500,000 in damages, the family of two former Carl Sandburg High School students alleges that the school district ignored bullying that caused one daughter’s injury, leading to psychological treatment and ultimately an out-of-state transfer.
The lawsuit, filed last week by Joseph Mulvey and Ellen Hogan-Mulvey, claims that for years their daughters, Meghan and Kathleen, were harassed by certain varisty basketball teammates after transferring from Providence High School as a junior and freshman, respectively.
The family says it warned Sandburg girls varsity basketball coach Chris Hellrung in June 2009 that a specific girl was going to hurt the younger Kathleen, who was pushed two days later while shooting a layup, severing a tendon in her right foot.
Hellrung, according to the suit, had assured the family that Kathleen was safe on the court and later called the injury an "accident."
As the bullying continued, the family was advised last spring to transfer Kathleen to a private school in Connecticut, which is close to her psychiatrist and the “only school which would accept her as a senior transfer,” according to the lawsuit.
At that time she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and treated for depression, the lawsuit states.
Lawrence Seiwert, an attorney for the family, accused the district of putting forth hardly any effort to protect both Mulvey children, though the school’s athletic department was aware of the bullying for years. Instead of upholding the anti-bullying rules of its own handbook, he said, they described the harassment as just “kids being kids” and then put their heads in the sand.
In addition to Hellrung and his brother Todd—both of whom coach the girl’s varsity team—the school’s principal, athletic director and dean of students, as well as the entire Consolidated High School District 230 Board of Education, its superintendent and assistant superintendent, are named individually as defendants.
“At this point we haven’t been served with legal documents and haven't seen the lawsuit, so we can't comment,” District 230 spokeswoman Carla Erdey said.
The Mulvey family did not return a message left Wednesday. Hellrung said, “I would love to tell my side,” but declined to comment on specifics.