The mother of a 13-year-old boy who had his right leg amputated below the knee after allegedly being body slammed by a contracted behavioral specialist is seeking $25 million in damages and costs in a personal injury civil lawsuit against the Muscogee County School District and seven other defendants.
Renee Tucker, the lawyer representing Montravious Thomas and his mother, Lawanda Thomas, filed the lawsuit Monday in Muscogee County State Court. Tucker works with the law firm Forrest B. Johnson & Associates, which has offices in Columbus, Atlanta and Macon.
The other defendants named in the lawsuit, individually and in their official capacities, are:
▪ David F. Lewis, MCSD superintendent of education.
▪ Bryant Alexander Mosley, the contracted behavioral specialist who allegedly body slammed Montravious multiple times Sept. 12 in the Edgewood Student Services Center, an MCSD alternative school where students may be temporarily assigned after violating the district behavior code.
▪ Mentoring & Behavioral Services LLC, the Columbus-based employer of Mosley.
▪ Zehra S. Malone, an MCSD teacher at Edgewood.
▪ Phyllis Fox, an MCSD paraprofessional at Edgewood.
▪ Eddie Powell, an MCSD assistant principal at Edgewood.
▪ Gisela M. Huggins, an MCSD bus driver.
Montravious started the school year as a seventh-grader at East Columbus Magnet Academy. According to the lawsuit, Montravious was assigned to Edgewood “due to events involving … another student.”
An MCSD bus picked up Montravious at his Columbus home around 11:30 a.m. and dropped him off at Edgewood, the lawsuit says.
Montravious was the only student in Room 109 at Edgewood, where Malone was his teacher, Fox was his parapro, Mosley was his behavioral specialist and Powell was the assistant principal, the lawsuit says
Around 1:30 p.m., according to the lawsuit, Montravious asked to leave the classroom to go to the principal’s office and call his mother. Mosley “physically blocked the doorway” and “initiated the use of multiple violent body-slamming events to prevent him from leaving the classroom,” the lawsuit says.
Mosley body-slammed Montravious “no less than” five times, according to the lawsuit, and Malone, Fox and Powell were witnesses. The incident was recorded on surveillance video, which MCSD has denied the plaintiffs, as well as the Ledger-Enquirer. In October, however, MCSD allowed Montravious’ lawyers to view the 25-minute video that they have said shows the body-slamming.
The video also shows, the lawsuit says, “Mosley using, on multiple occasions, forceful direct pressure to hold Montravious Thomas down on the floor in the prone position.” Nobody intervened, according to the lawsuit, and Mosley outweighed Montravious “by at least 100 pounds.”
The lawsuit also contends Montravious “was not a danger to himself or any others in the classroom.”
The Ledger-Enquirer didn’t reach for comment any of the lawyers representing the defendants Tuesday, but MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller has told the Ledger-Enquirer via email, “It is our understanding that there were issues concerning the safety of the child and others in the room, which called for the use of restraint per state guidance. Physical restraint is allowed in Georgia public schools and educational programs in those situations in which the student is an immediate danger to himself or others and the student is not responsive to less intensive behavioral interventions including verbal directives or other de-escalation techniques.”
Following the body-slamming, according to the lawsuit, Montravious told Mosley, Malone, Fox and Powell “that his right leg was injured and that he couldn’t walk,” but “no proper medical treatment was provided to or sought for” Montravious by the defendants.
Montravious asked if he could call his mother, the lawsuit says, “but no phone was provided to him.” Powell told Montravious an ambulance was being called, according to the lawsuit. “As time passed and no ambulance arrived,” the lawsuit says, Montravious asked when the ambulance would arrive. He was told they decided to send him home on the bus instead, the lawsuit says.
More than an hour after the body-slamming, according to the lawsuit, Mosley picked up Thomas and carried him out of the classroom, down the hall and out of the school. Malone and Mosley took Montravious to the school bus, according to the lawsuit. Montravious “was required to sit with a broken and unstabilized leg,” the lawsuit says, and Huggins, the driver, didn’t provide medical treatment or report the injury.
Fuller also has told the L-E via email that Edgewood officials made “multiple attempts” to contact Montravious’ mother by phone after the incident. Fuller said “witnesses indicate that the child was up and walking and not in distress following the administered restraint.”
After her son arrived home from Edgewood that day, according to the lawsuit, Lawanda Thomas immediately took him to the emergency room at Midtown Medical Center, where he was “diagnosed with a right knee dislocation, right leg vascular injury and fracture of the proximal tibia.”
Montravious underwent surgery for “reduction of the knee,” the lawsuit says, and was flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
After “numerous surgical procedures” to try to save his right leg, the lawsuit says, it was amputated below the knee on Oct. 18.
Since then, Tucker told the Ledger-Enquirer via email Tuesday, Montravious is “still recovering and still doing physical therapy” and hasn’t returned to school.
The lawsuit alleges:
▪ Mosley, Malone, Fox, Powell and Huggins were negligent while Montravious was in their care.
▪ MCSD, Lewis and MBS were negligent in the hiring, training and supervision of their employees.
▪ The actions and inactions of Mosley, Malone, Fox and Powell constitute “abuse, assault and battery.”
▪ Montravious’ rights to due process and equal protection were denied.
The medical expenses for Montravious’ treatment have totaled more than $600,436, according to the lawsuit. Adding punitive damages, the plaintiffs seek $25 million.
Fuller told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Tuesday, “MCSD does not comment on pending litigation. A response to any complaint will be timely submitted in the proper forum.”