Education

Settlement reached with 1 defendant in Montravious Thomas $25 million lawsuit vs. MCSD

Surveillance video shows Montravious Thomas being carried from MCSD school after incident

Video and an incident report were leaked to All on Georgia by “sources in the school system” and posted on the site.
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Video and an incident report were leaked to All on Georgia by “sources in the school system” and posted on the site.

Another settlement has been reached in the lawsuits linked to the Montravious Thomas case against the Muscogee County School District and other defendants.

Mentoring and Behavioral Services LLC has agreed to pay Montravious, his mother and his lawyers undisclosed amounts in exchange for being dropped from the $25 million lawsuit that was filed two years ago.

Three years ago, one of the behavior specialists employed by MBS, who was contracted to work in the school district, allegedly body-slammed Montravious five times at an alternative school for students with severe discipline violations. A month later, after unsuccessful surgeries, the 13-year-old had his right leg amputated below his knee due to injuries from the confrontation with Bryant Mosley, according to the lawsuit.

In September 2018, MBS filed a settlement offer. Eight months later, the plaintiffs filed notice they have accepted.

Muscogee County State Court Judge Ben Richardson approved the plaintiff’s motion to defer the minor’s settlement to Muscogee County Probate Court on May 29.

The motion says the settlement’s terms are confidential, however, the motion notes the settlement’s proceeds will be disbursed to:

Montravious, whose funds will be placed in an annuity, with payments starting when he turns 18

Lawanda Thomas, Montravious’ mother

The plaintiff’s law firm, Forrest B. Johnson & Associates

The lawsuit, which was filed in Muscogee County State Court in March 2017, included other defendants besides MCSD, MBS and Mosley. They were:

David Lewis, the MCSD superintendent

Zehra Malone, who was Montravious’ teacher at the alternative school Sept. 12, 2016, the first and only day he attended there. Montravious was the only student in Room 109 when the confrontation with Mosley occurred, according to the lawsuit.

Phyllis Fox, who was the paraprofessional in the classroom

Eddie Powell, who was the alternative school’s assistant principal. He was in charge that day because the principal was absent.

Gisela Huggins, the MCSD bus driver who took Montravious home that day but failed to provide medical treatment for his “broken and unstabilized leg” or report the injury, the lawsuit says.

In September 2017, assistant principal Powell sued MCSD in federal court. He alleged the reason he hadn’t been selected as a principal is racial discrimination, retaliation for having complained about racial discrimination and a violation of the Georgia Whistleblowers Protection Act. Powell leaked to the website AllOnGeorgia the surveillance video that shows Mosley carrying Montravious out of the school and to the bus.

In January 2018, the Ledger-Enquirer sued MCSD to have the classroom surveillance video released to show what happened between Montravious and Mosley that day. That lawsuit is pending in Muscogee County Superior Court.

Powell, now an assistant principal at Midland Academy, dismissed his claims against MCSD last month. The L-E filed an open records request to reveal the settlement and reported earlier this month that the school district’s insurer, the Georgia School Boards Association Risk Management Fund, agreed to pay Powell $305,000 in exchange for dropping his lawsuit and agreeing to resign Dec. 31, 2021.

In March 2018, the plaintiffs dropped from the lawsuit the school district and five MCSD employees in their official capacities, but they remain defendants in their individual capacities.

One of Montravious’ lawyers, Renee Tucker of Forrest B. Johnson & Associates, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email then, “We agreed to voluntarily drop MCSD and some of the named persons, in their official capacity, only. The conduct of these individuals is still the subject matter of this litigation. Finally, we note, our firm is continuing to pursue justice for Montravious Thomas and his mother, and changes with regard to the MCSD processes that led to and facilitated his injury. This case isn’t going away.”

Tucker wasn’t reached this week to comment about agreeing to the settlement with MBS. One of the lawyers for MBS, Scott Masterson of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, declined to answer the Ledger-Enquirer’s questions.

“The terms and amount of the settlement are confidential between the parties,” Masterson said via email Thursday. “I can confirm the parties reached amicable resolution. As this matter is resolved, I do not feel it would be appropriate for me, as counsel, to comment on your other inquires as our representation has concluded.”

Asked why MBS agreed to settle, Masterson said, “The parties settled to avoid further litigation and bring the matter to conclusion.”

In April 2018, 19 months after the incident, the Columbus Police Department’s investigation concluded. No criminal charges were filed in connection with the case.

More than a year ago, the plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a motion to add Columbus Police Lt. Consuelo Askew as a defendant in the lawsuit. Askew was MCSD’s part-time security officer on duty at the alternative school the day of the incident. She also was CPD’s lead investigator in the case, which the plaintiffs’ lawyers called a conflict of interest.

As of Thursday afternoon, the lawsuit’s public documents don’t show how Judge Richardson ruled on the motion, and a call to his office didn’t answer the question, so it’s unclear whether Askew is a defendant.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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