by Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — An attorney for the parent/guardian of a Mingo Central Comprehensive High School (MCCHS) student has filed suit on their behalf against MCCHS Principal Daniel Dean and the Mingo County Board of Education. The suits, filed at about 2 p.m. in Mingo County Circuit Court, name Dean personally and as MCCHS principal.
Justin Marcum filed the suit after reports concerning an incident involving Dean and the female student have circulated for days on social media. The filing comes on the heels of a press release from Marcum stating his intention to file the suit.
Dean has been defended by a number of those on Facebook and other social media, although most have admitted they did not witness the alleged MCCHS incident. They have cited the Dean family’s good standing in the community as well as noting that Dean is a minister. He is also the father of new House of Delegates member, Republican Mark Dean.
When the story first broke exclusively in the Corridor Chronicle, a person alleging to have been involved in a fight with the student Marcum is representing in the case wrote that she (the person) had “whooped” Marcum’s client. Shortly thereafter, the person alleging they had been involved in the altercation removed her postings from social media. The newspaper has retained screenshots of what was said.
The Corridor Chronicle will not name either student or the guardian who filed the suit out of respect for the confidentiality of the minors involved. Contrary to common myth, a newspaper IS permitted to publish the names of minors in most situations but does not because of professional courtesy. Further, the name of the plaintiff is definitely public record but the Chronicle staff feels that identifying the guardian in a small community like Newtown would quickly cause the student-alleged victim to be identified as well.
Throughout the lawsuit, the alleged victim is referred to as “H.R.,” which is how the newspaper will identify her. The suit says the minor lives with her parents/guardians in Delbarton. Dean’s address is listed as 1000 King Coal Highway, Delbarton. That is the address of MCCHS.
The complaint sets out that the Mingo County Board of Education, “at all times herein … controlled and managed the public school system in Mingo County … and its employees, including principals and teachers.”
On January 20, the suit says, H.R. was involved in the altercation at MCCHS. Soon, “Daniel Dean came and got H.R., took her to the principal’s office, shut the door, and began talking in a threatening manner toward (her).” The complaint alleges Dean “proceeded to talk down to H.R. by screaming in her face, all behind closed doors.”
Next, the suit says, “(Dean) got frustrated with H.R., which resulted in … Dean slapping H.R. in the face and knocking her to the floor. H.R. was delusional and confused immediately following the alleged slap … and reached to pick herself up off the floor.”
A witness, the suit says, commented, “wow, he went too far” with respect to the treatment of H.R. The complaint says the student suffered severe bodily injury as “a result of this assault, battery and intentional act by … Dean.” It alleges that Dean’s behavior broke a number of state and county school board policies as well as criminal codes.
The suit says the West Virginia State Police are investigating the incident, which a police spokesman confirmed to the Corridor Chronicle. It goes on, “Dean was negligent by and through his failure to properly supervised the students under his care and control and failure to take any precautions to prevent the altercation.” It maintains that Dean is negligent and that the BOE and its employees were negligent “by carelessly, recklessly and negligently failing to supervise its employees and students; failing to safeguard H.R. from a situation that was known to be dangerous; failing to undertake reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of H.R.; and failing to otherwise act or comply within the pertinent standard of care required of the Board of Education and its employees.” Additional negligence is alleged by the Board and Dean.
Not only, the suit says, did H.R. suffer bodily injury but she has has been exposed to “emotional trauma and distress.” She has also incurred “various and sundry other consequential expenses, losses and damages ….”
The suit then spells out charges that Dean “caused H.R. to be in apprehension of intentional bodily contact, further known as Principal Dean committed an assault on H.R. Principal Dean allegedly battered H.R.
It continues, “(T)he contact by … Dean when he shoved and smacked H.R. was harmful, offensive and caused injury to H.R. (He) acted in an extreme and outrageous manner, intended his actions and caused H.R. severe emotional distress.” It says Dean “was reckless in his conduct in shoving and smacking a student under age of majority.” Further, it says the Principal recommended H.R. be suspended for ten days “and sent to alternative school in an attempt to silent H.R. from taking any actions against him.”
The suit concludes that Dean is “still working at Mingo Central High School and the Board of Education failed to suspend him pending an investigation into the serious matters alleged by H.R. and her mother.”
Despite repeated calls, Dean has not responded to any Corridor Chronicle phone call since the alleged incident occurred.
Marcum asks for compensatory and punitive damages; for the cost of attorney fees and interest; and for “all other proper orders and relief to which the plaintiff might be entitled.”
Circuit Clerk Lonnie Hannah signed the summons for Dean and the BOE this afternoon.
Meanwhile, at about the time the suit was filed, Superintendent Donald Spence, who had not responded to media inquiries since the alleged incident occurred, issued a brief statement. In the statement, bearing a date of January 30, Spence admits that “the administration is aware of social media reports that assert a student was physically assaulted and battered by a school employee. We take all such reports very seriously, in particular those that relate to the safety and well being of students.”
Defending the lack of any noticeable response from the administration or Board members since January 20, Spence goes on, “To assert the school system would do otherwise is disappointing to those that have dedicated themselves to the mission of educating our students.” One board member, in fact, consistently responded to Corridor Chronicle inquiries by asserting her support for Dean.
Nevertheless, the Superintendent goes on to say, “the allegations have been investigated and have not been substantiated.”
Spencer adds, “Beyond this statement, school administration, unlike others, is limited in further addressing this issue in the media, given the legal privacy rights afforded to students and employees.”
He accurately concludes, “Not surprisingly, social media reports indicate that a legal action is anticipated to be filed against the school system. If that occurs, the school system will further respond pursuant to the laws that govern court proceedings.” At the time of issuance of the statement, Spence was apparently unaware that the suit had been filed.
Dean and the Board have 30 days to respond to Marcum’s suit.