Second Lawsuit Filed Against Lowndes County Schools By Family Of Kendrick Johnson

By: CNN;Winnie Wright Email
By: CNN;Winnie Wright Email
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Update: Winnie Wright
July 29, 2014

Lowndes County, GA - The family of Kendrick Johnson has filed a second lawsuit against Lowndes County Schools in the 2013 death of their son.

Johnson was found dead inside the high school gym.

In a lawsuit filed against The Lowndes County School Board on Monday, attorneys claim that the defendants, including Principal, Jay Floyd, Superintendent, Wes Taylor, Chairman Fred Wetherington, and other members of the school board failed to properly supervise and protect KJ from mistreatment, harrassment, assaults and fatal injuries after a fight on a bus with the football team.

These are not new allegations. The same allegations were filed in May against The Lowndes County Board of Education, on behalf of Kendrick Johnson's Estate.

In Monday's lawsuit, counts related to Title 9 and Amendment 14 violations, Emotional Distress, and recovery of funeral expenses have been removed. Family Attorney, Chevene King, explains that KJ's parents cannot sue the School Board on the same issues that the Estate can.

"You can't, under Georgia Law, as someone bringing a Wrongful Death Action, sue the defendant for causing you emotional distress, because the loved one was killed, you're not entitled to that under Georgia's wrongful death statute", says King.

Lowndes County Schools Attorney, Warren Turner, says his client has been served neither lawsuit, from Johnson's Estate, nor on behalf of his parents.

He says because the school district has not been served, "it would be premature and inappropriate to make a public comment on this matter at this time."

Both Johnson's Estate and his parents are seeking financial damages and a jury trial. Georgia's statue of limitations for these types of lawsuits is two years. Johnson died 18 months ago.

Investigators determined Johnson died from accidental asphyxiation. A pathologist hired by the Johnson family, however, ruled the teen died of blunt force trauma to the head.


Update: WCTV Eyewitness News
July 29, 2014 - 12 p.m.

Lowndes County Schools has issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit filed by the parents of Kendrick Johnson:

"As of this time, the school district has not been served with any such suit. Therefore, it would be premature and inappropriate to make a public comment on this matter at this time."


News Release: Associated Press
July 29, 2014

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) -- The parents of a south Georgia teenager found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at school have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against school administrators.

The parents of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson of Valdosta sued Monday in Superior Court. Their lawsuit blames the Lowndes County school board for allowing Johnson to die "at the hands of one or more students" while at his high school during school hours.

Classmates found Johnson's body inside a rolled-up mat propped in a corner of the gym Jan. 11, 2013.

Sheriff's investigators concluded that he died in a freak accident, having fallen into the mat and gotten stuck upside down.

Johnson's parents insist that someone killed him.

The school board's attorney, Warren Turner, did not immediately return a call Tuesday from The Associated Press.


Updated By:Winnie Wright
May 15, 2014

Bullying and negligence are just two of the allegations filed against the Lowndes County School District by Kendrick Johnson's family.
Jackie Johnson, KJ's mother says the Coroner's ruling of an accidental death never set with her.

We just ever wanted the truth. My mind, my soul, my heart can't rest until I find out what happened to my son", says Jackie Johnson.

An independent pathologist, hired by the Johnsons, concluded that his death was a result of blunt force trauma to the neck. Family attorney Ben Crump says the fact that there are no surveillance tapes to show either scenario, is exactly why the lawsuit was filed.

"Based on our court system, if you can't get answers, then the way to make people have to answer is to bring them before the court, bring them under oath, and say you have to answer these questions", says Crump.

The lawsuit claims KJ got into a bus fight with a student in 2012. It goes on to say Jackie Johnson requested a copy of the surveillance video and was denied by the defendants.

Representatives for Lowndes County Schools did not respond to our requests for a comment.

The family's attorneys say they can't speak on the details, but according to the lawsuit, the defendants knew that Johnson had been bullied and harrassed, but didn't do anything to prevent or resolve the issues.

Jackie Johnson says with a Statute of Limitations of two years, her family is racing against the clock to get answers.

"It's hurtful , it's stressful. At days it's just hard to get out of bed. But I know we've got to keep fighting for Kendrick."

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore's office is conducting an ongoing investigation into what happened to Johnson, they say their office is not releasing information at this time.



Updated By: Winnie Wright
May 14, 2014

Valdosta, GA - As the investigation by the US Attorney continues in to what caused KJ's death, the Family of Kendrick Johnson is now suing the Lowndes County school district. The Johnsons claim in the suit that Kendrick Johnson's right to equal protection under the law was violated.

"In this instance, it failed to protect Kendrick from whoever this individual or these individuals were that caused his death", says Johnson Family Attorney, Chevene King.

The lawsuit specifically takes aim at Lowndes County school board chairman Fred Wetherington, Superintendent Wes Taylor, and High School Principal Jay Floyd. It claims they violated KJ's rights by not properly handling a fight between Johnson and another student in 2012.

WCTV received this statement from the attorney representing the school district.

"As of this time, the school district has not been served with any such suit. Therefore, it would be premature and inappropriate to make a public comment on this matter at this time."

Attorney King says school systems owe each and every child a certain level of supervision and protection while on school grounds. He says the evidence clearly shows that KJ was not offered that protection while at Lowndes High School.

"The school obviously failed because it is unimaginable how it is that someone such as Kendrick could go missing in the middle of a school day, where you have essentially 3,000 people on that high school campus, and nobody knew what had happened to him, and where his body was, until some 18 hours or more later", says King.

The family is filing the lawsuit now because the Statute of Limitations for this type of issue is only 2 years and it has been 18 months from the time the family say KJ's rights were violated.

Investigators determined Johnson died from accidental asphyxiation.
A pathologist hired by the Johnson family says Johnson died of blunt force trauma to the head.



News Release: CNN News Copy

(CNN) -- The family of Kendrick Johnson has sued a south Georgia school district claiming it was negligent in protecting their son from harassment and bullying, which they contend led to his death.

Johnson's body was found in a rolled-up mat in the Lowndes High School gymnasium on January 11, 2013.

The lawsuit was filed in State Superior Court on Tuesday. It alleges that Lowndes County Board of Education was negligent and violated Johnson's constitutional right to equal protection based on race. Johnson was African-American.

Investigators with the Sheriff's Office ruled his death accidental -- concluding that Johnson climbed into the center of the gym mat to reach for a shoe and got stuck.

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson believe that their son was beaten to death. They hired an independent pathologist, who found "unexplained apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma" to the teen's neck and concluded the death was a homicide.

The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia launched a federal investigation into the case on October 31, 2013.

An attorney for Lowndes County Schools had not returned CNN's request for comment by Tuesday evening.


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