Claremore Daily Progress


August 26, 2011

Parents allege Verdigris principal ignored sexual harassment by football players

VERDIGRIS — Parents of a disabled Verdigris High School student say the school ignored reports that three football players were regularly touching their daughter and other students bullying her over a deformity.

The parents are suing the school for $75,000, claiming Principal Randy Risenhoover broke the state’s anti-bullying law by ignoring the reports.

The parents also want $10,000 from the mother of a girl they say injured their daughter in a fight after taunting her because she does not have a right hand.

None of the students are identified in the lawsuit.

“The best we can tell, nothing was ever done to the students,” said Brendan McHugh, the parents’ Claremore lawyer. “We don’t think the football players were even spoken to at all.”

Risenhoover and Verdigris Superintendent Mike Payne declined to comment Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed in Rogers County District Court last month and moved to federal court in Tulsa Aug. 19. A hearing has not been scheduled.

McHugh said the football players frequently touched the girl, who is now 16, on her private areas for about one month in fall 2009. It stopped after her parents contacted the parents of one of the players, he said.

It was unrelated to the fight, which happened months later, he said.

The lawsuit claims the victim and her mother told Risenhoover of both incidents verbally and in writing and that he downplayed the situations.

Both happened on school grounds with witnesses, McHugh said.

“When you get a report of sexual harassment, I’m not sure you have to believe the person right away but you have to do an investigation and talk to people to see what’s going on,” McHugh said, adding that it appeared the school did not investigate the reports.

He said the harassment hurt the girl’s self esteem and her nose was broken in the fight, which required hospitalization.

“She hasn’t had a nervous breakdown or anything like that, but it’s been something that’s been pretty damaging for her childhood,” he said. “She’s tough enough where I think because of her disability she’s gone through quite a bit in her life and she’s adapted to be a very tough little girl.”

The lawsuit claims the three football players harassed at least three other girls in the same way.

The girl who later injured the victim often followed and taunted her about her missing hand, usually joined by three or four other girls, McHugh said.

That girl’s mother knew of the bullying but refused to stop it, he said.

“We think under Oklahoma law that a parent, if they know their kid is doing something, they are held responsible,” he said.

He said the victim’s parents decided not to sue the football players’ parents because they intervened when told of the behavior.

State law requires schools to act against bullying, he said.

He cited the School Bullying Prevention Act, which requires schools to adopt an anti-bullying policy and authorizes administrators to protect students from bullying, but specifically releases schools from liability related to the law.

Administrators “can’t just say, ‘Here’s our policy. You have to follow it,’” McHugh said. “They’ve got more of a responsibility than that.”

Text Only
  • Outstanding students Verdigris, Claremore graduates recognized for ‘outstanding’ achievement at OU

    A Verdigris High School graduate and two Claremore High School graduates were recognized Friday and Saturday night for their academic and leadership achievements at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • 9628597web.jpg Opponents can’t score on OSU’s Battenfield

    Oklahoma State freshman pitcher Blake Battenfield continues to impress Cowboys head coach Josh Holliday with his perfect 0.00 earned-run average this season.

    March 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cardinals fall in 3A semifinals; Lady Cards eliminated in quarters

    The Verdigris Cardinals saw their Class 3A State Tournament journey end Friday afternoon in the Final Four.
    Oklahoma City Centennial eliminated the No. 4-ranked Cardinals, 62-51 in the semifinals at the Big House in Oklahoma City.

    March 16, 2014

  • DSC_0179web.jpg Cards fly into 3A State Tournament

    Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
    The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0098web.jpg ‘Soaring to State’

    In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
    The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.

    March 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0168web.jpg 3A AREA PLAYOFFS: Tahlequah Sequoyah wins nail-biter over No. 4 Verdigris

    The Tahlequah Sequoyah Indians pulled the upset Friday night and punched their ticket to the Class 3A State Tournament.
    Behind Caisen Green’s game-high 26 points and B.J. Leach’s 16 points, the Indians roared past No. 4 Verdigris, 64-55 in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.

    March 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • HANSLOVANweb.jpg 3A AREA PLAYOFFS: Verdigris battles Tahlequah Sequoyah in Checotah

    Verdigris senior guard Caitlyn Hanslovan drained two key 3-pointers during Saturday’s Class 3A Regional Finals that provided a spark and a huge win over Vian.
    Hanslovan, who is accustomed to winning state championships in soccer, will look to move the No. 3-ranked Lady Cardinals one step closer toward a berth in the 3A State Tournament at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in the area finals against Tahlequah Sequoyah at Checotah High School.

    March 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Winter March 2014 Winter’s last gasp?

    A powerful winter storm brought sleet and snow to Rogers County Sunday, leaving roads in hazardous condition and all schools were closed on Monday.

    March 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0063web.jpg ‘Night to Remember’

    Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell may have won the points column, but Inola’s Lexi Williams and the Lady Longhorns stole the spotlight at the buzzer.
    Williams, who transferred into Inola this year from Bixby and is the daughter of Lady Longhorns’ coaches Donnie and Lori Martin, made Thursday night one to remember in Rogers County.

    February 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • DSC_0093web.jpg Cards rout Inola 98-80

    There was no denying Thursday night that the Verdigris Cardinals had no plans of sharing their Will Rogers Conference Championship.
    Behind Cade Upshaw’s game-high 27 points and the accurate 3-point shooting of freshman forward Brewster Peacock, the Class 3A No. 4 Cardinals swarmed over Inola, 98-80.

    February 15, 2014 1 Photo