Lawsuit alleges bullying at Newport-Mesa

A mother is suing for monetary damages, written apologies and new school policies, alleging a Newport Beach teacher bullied her daughter in 2011 and her complaints about it were not properly addressed.

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court in February, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District failed to intervene when a Newport Heights Elementary School teacher began harassing the then-fifth-grader in retaliation for a previous complaint.

The lawsuit does not identify the mother and daughter, arguing that they deserve anonymity.

The daughter has already been forced to change schools because of the conflict, according to the court filing.

The student's mother complained to the school principal on Feb. 4, 2011 that the teacher was disrupting class by bringing a toddler with her to school and often showing up late, according to the lawsuit.

After the complaint, the teacher allegedly humiliated the student in class, canceled make-up tests, refused to give her the proper tools for assignments and often misstated or neglected to enter grades, the mother alleges in court documents.

The lawsuit claims the defendants violated the daughter's right to a safe, peaceful learning environment and the mother's right to free speech when they retaliated or refused to investigate her complaints.

The document also claims that the school district broke open-records laws by providing an edited tape when the mother requested video from a school board meeting.

A lawyer and spokeswoman for the Newport-Mesa Unified did not return calls asking about the lawsuit, but a response filed last month asked a judge to dismiss the claims because they didn't follow proper filing procedures and don't show the evidence needed to support the alleged violations.

"The 1st Amendment does not guarantee that there will be any government response to a public complaint, or that the government will consider, respond or grant any relief on a citizen's request for redress of grievances," the filing argues at one point, defending administrators against the mother's claim that they violated her freedom of speech by allowing the alleged retaliation to continue.

In addition to blaming the district, the lawsuit names a small group of administrators and district employees, including former Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard, an assistant superintendent and Newport Height's principal at the time.

In January 2013, the unidentified mother originally filed suit against the same defendants and an additional Newport Heights teacher but with somewhat different allegations.

In addition to the alleged retaliation, the mother said school employees and students bullied her daughter based on her gender or sexual orientation.

"Plaintiffs are informed and believe that the school and the district are afflicted by a culture which is highly discriminatory toward females ..." the original claim states.

But any reference to that sexual bias was removed from the amended complaint filed in February.

The plaintiffs' lawyer did not return a voice mail message Wednesday.

The school district's response says it was never served with the original lawsuit, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court.

The lawsuit moved to the U.S. District Court for the central district of California in Santa Ana at the request of the defendants.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for April 21.

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