07/14/04 — North Duplin family suing board of education

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North Duplin family suing board of education

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 14, 2004 1:57 PM

FAISON -- A northern Duplin County family is suing the school board for allegedly refusing medical attention to an injured student.

Family members say 14-year-old Justin Alphin's jaw was wired shut until last week when the final wires came off.

Wilmington lawyer Bruce Robinson filed the lawsuit July 7 on behalf of Peggy Alphin, the teen's grandmother and guardian.

The suit alleges that another teen, Henry Grady, broke Alphin's jaw when he struck him in the face on April 26 while they were in gym class at North Duplin High School.

It accuses school officials of being "negligent ... in failing to obtain prompt medical care for Justin, causing him to suffer great bodily pain, mental suffering and injury."

The boy reportedly told two school officials he thought his jaw was broken, but nobody called the family or 911, the suit said. Family members say the teen suffered for an hour at the school before they arrived to take him to the hospital. After they arrived to drive him to the hospital emergency room, they say, he waited more than two hours to receive medical attention.

Rescue workers told family members that emergency medical technicians would have had him at the hospital in 25 minutes. They would have bypassed the waiting room and gotten him immediate care in the emergency room, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit says school officials "caused needless and inexcusable suffering. ... Compounding the injuries described above, the defendant, following the incident described in this complaint, terminated the child's right to attend North Duplin High School, forcing him to become a gazing stock by his peers and others in the community for conduct that was not attributable to him and for which no such severe unsuitable punishment should be imposed."

The school officials allegedly instructed Alphin's classmates not to have any contact with him, "further compounding the emotional and psychic injury" to Alphin. The suit described the school officials' conduct as "willful and malicious, wantonly careless and gross."

The family is asking for a jury trial and a minimum of $10,000 in damages. Three months before the fight, the teen's grandfather, Bobby Alphin, had begged the principal to separate the two teens, the suit said, "due to past bullying by Henry Grady towards Justin Alphin."

The suit adds, "The principal acknowledged the dangerous situation to the minor child's grandfather" and promised the grandfather that he would do something to make sure the children stayed apart.

But the principal did nothing, the suit says. The suit alleges that the injuries suffered by Alphin would not have occurred if the promised corrective action had been taken.