Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 31, 2013

Paddling suit sent to mediation

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Attorneys on both sides of a lawsuit centered around the paddling of a student at Homestead Elementary in March 2011 have agreed to enter judicial mediation.

Cumberland County Board of Education Attorney Earl Patton reported the development at the January meeting of the board, adding mediation was set to begin in February.

"The mediation process is voluntary," Patton said. "We hope this will result in a resolution of the case."

The court granted a motion to stay court proceeding pending mediation in December.

The suit was filed by Melanie S. Stoner on behalf of her minor child after he was paddled for attempting to leave a classroom early, even though he was on the "no paddle" list and parents had not granted the school permission to use corporal punishment in disciplining the child.

Defendants include Cumberland County doing business as Cumberland County Schools, Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle, Homestead Elementary Principal Robin Perry and James Vaughn Davis, former teacher and coach at the school. The suit claims Davis and the other defendants violated the student's right to due process, committed battery and assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The suit was filed by Richard M. Brooks, of Carthage, and Crossville attorney Walter Alan Rose.

Davis, then 71, was indicted in March 2012 on a single charge of simple assault, a misdemeanor charge. He was later granted diversion in the case and will be eligible to have the charge removed from his record if he completes the sentencing agreement. He was placed on unsupervised probation for 11 months and 29 days and paid court costs.

Davis also has been on family medical leave with the school system and has not returned to teaching.

The suit states the child had been involved in an ATV accident in 2009 that resulted in a traumatic brain injury and that the child has been diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress following the paddling incident and has suffered from fainting and nightmares.

The suit states that on March 23, the student prepared to leave the classroom and was instructed to return to his seat because class had not yet ended. The lawsuit states the student returned to his seat and was instructed to not leave the classroom until all the other students had left. However, he left with the rest of the class.

According to the suit, Davis pursued the student outside the classroom, bent him over an object and proceeded to administer three licks with a paddle. The lawsuit states this was in violation of school board policy and was a disproportionate form of discipline for the infraction.