A learning-disabled student who was humiliated in his fifth-grade class settles his lawsuit for $40,600.
Bonita Elementary School near Willcox will pay $40,600 and apologize publicly to a learning-disabled student whose family said he was humiliated by the school’s staff.
The award was approved recently by Pima County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Fleischman, who on Nov. 19 heard a lawsuit settlement conference between 13-year-old John Henderson II and the school, which the boy attended for two years.
Both parties were satisfied with the settlement, officials said this week.
About $25,000 of the settlement will be used to purchase an annuity for John, who will receive $8,900 annually for four years, beginning on his 18th birthday. The rest of the money will pay for attorneys’ fees, court expenses, medical bills, and a small amount for John, who wants a mountain bike.
“Judge Fleischman is famous for his settlement conferences,’ plaintiff’s attorney Pamela Liberty said, commending the Superior Court judge.
The plaintiff initially sought a $50,000 restitution, Liberty said.
But “we thought the public apology would be good for John’s self-esteem.’ The apology, a written statement, will be published in a newspaper in Willcox.
And the annuity was awarded to assure John that he is a “college-bound kid,’ she added.
Mary Lou Gammon, superintendent and principal at Bonita Elementary School, said the school is preparing the written statement, which should be out on Tuesday at the latest.
The settlement was to everyone’s benefit, Gammon added.
Bonita is a town in Graham County, about 65 miles northeast of Tucson.
Henderson’s parents, John and Linda, filed a lawsuit against the school on behalf of their 13-year-old son because of a class exercise that humiliated him. Their son John has learning disabilities and was “clumsy’ because his motor skills lagged behind his 6-foot, 210-pound frame, Henderson said.
John received three awards – the Procrastinator’s Award, the Pigsty Award, and the World’s Worst Athlete Award – in the class exercise that concluded John’s fifth grade at Bonita Elementary School.
John hid the awards from him initially, Henderson said. However, John broke down before his mother, Linda, with whom John spent the summer after his fifth grade.
“I was furious, to say the least,’ Henderson said of how he felt when his ex-wife told him over the phone about the awards John received.
“They belittled him like that,’ he added.
He then went to John’s room and found the three certificates John received in the class exercise. They were buried in a pile on John’s desk, Henderson recalled.
The awards made John “physically ill, and he had an emotional breakdown,’ Henderson said. John has been getting psychological help.
“Now he realizes he should not have gotten those awards. He’s doing better in school again,’ Henderson said.
“I already had a college fund for my son,’ he said, and between the settlement and his savings, John’s college expenses “might take a little bit more.’
John did not want to go back to Bonita Elementary School after fifth grade. He is now in seventh grade at Marana Junior High School.
“He’s getting up to par with other students. They mainstream him now most of the time,’ the proud father said, referring to how his son is doing in his new school.