La Jolla Country Day School case goes to jury

By Kelly Wheeler

City News Service

Editor's note: The jury will continue deliberations Wednesday morning.

Administrators at La Jolla Country Day School followed protocol "to the letter" in dealing with a former student who claimed she was bullied by other students, an attorney for the school said Monday, but a lawyer for the plaintiff said the school retaliated against her client because

she complained.

Closing arguments were delivered in the case brought by Desiree Barbara Bagby, who claims officials at the private school did nothing to stop the abuse against her. Her attorney asked the jury for $1 million in damages. Jury deliberations were to continue Tuesday the courtroom of Judge Frederic Link.

Bagby said derogatory slurs were written on her car and pictures of a penis were drawn on the vehicle, a student drove straight at her in a school parking lot, she was threatened over the Internet and a dead rat was placed in her locker.

John Collins, an attorney for the school, told a jury the lawsuit was a "misuse" of the justice system and was brought for retaliation against La Jolla Country Day.

"They (school administrators) followed protocol to the letter," Collins told the jury.

Bagby's father told his daughter's school adviser that the goal of the legal action was to drag La Jolla Country Day through the mud, Collins told the jury.

Collins said most of the witnesses in the trial contradicted some of Desiree Bagby's testimony that she was bullied and that school didn't do enough about it.

Bagby was suspended for five days after admitting stealing beer and drinking during a school-sponsored trip to Ecuador and yelling an obscenity at a heckler during a school soccer game, according to court testimony.

"She was not the center of the universe," Collins told the jury.

A recommendation to expel Bagby was overturned, but she was ultimately asked to withdraw from the school, which she did.

Bagby claimed she was not sent a re-enrollment contract for her junior year, but Collins said the school principal sent one to her home the day after it came to his attention.

Bagby, now 18 and in college, heard from her mother, not the school, that she was not going to be able to attend the school for her junior year, Collins said.

Collins said Bagby — who filed her lawsuit in April 2009 — was basically accusing the three top school officials of lying about how the situation was handled.

Joane Garcia-Colson, Bagby's attorney, told the jury that the school wanted to make an example out of her.

Garcia-Colson said her client was humiliated on the bench after her soccer coach suspended her for missing a game.

By not notifying the Bagbys that their daughter wasn't getting a contract to re-enroll at the school, administrators "broke their own rules" and "betrayed' Bagby, her attorney said.

According to Garcia-Colson, officials failed to do their job because they failed to discipline three girls who admitted defacing Bagby's car.

"Those girls admitted to misconduct," the plaintiff's attorney said.

The girls told school administrators that they defaced Bagby's car only after she wrote on their cars, but no one asked Bagby for her side of the story because she was the "bad girl from Ecuador," according to Garcia-Colson.

Administrators concluded that Bagby, who was also a member of the cheer team, was a "bad child" and `"they needed to get rid of her," the attorney said.

"She wasn't given any due process," Garcia-Colson said. "She was just convicted.''

All teachers who testified during the trial said Bagby was a good student, her attorney told the jury.

Garcia-Colson urged the jury not to let La Jolla Country Day treat tudents the way they did her client.

"They retaliated against her because she complained," Garcia-Colson said. "Hold them accountable."

The lawsuit names La Jolla Country Day head of school Christopher Schuck, high school Principal Roderick Jemison and the school as defendants.



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