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80 Years Ago

Archives 08-20-2003




School system asks for dismissal of suit
Accident victim returns home
Girl dies from boating injuries at Dale Hollow
Board chairman says statement was incorrect



School system asks for dismissal of suit

Overton County school officials asked for dismissal of a $4 million-plus lawsuit in a legal response filed Monday, Aug. 11.

The suit, filed in late June by the parents and guardians of 16 girls and a boy, concerns camera placements at Livingston Middle School. Cameras were in an area that allowed viewing of a portion of locker rooms.

The answer was filed by Michael P. Mills, of Mills & Cooper, for defendants Overton County School Board, William Needham, Robert Jolley, Melinda Beaty, Jerry Glasscock, David Langford, Dolphus Dial, Joey Smith, Lenard Ledbetter, Edith Key, Donald Brown, Melody Williams, Tim Coffee, and Michelle Thrasher.

The answer asserts, "These defendants demand the complaint against them be dismissed with costs assessed against the plaintiffs."

The response begins by denying that the cameras were hidden, and asserting that the areas were not locker rooms when the cameras were installed.

"In response to the first unnumbered paragraph of the complaint, these defendants deny the cameras were either hidden or originally placed in what were at that time locker areas at the Livingston Middle School," the answer states.

The response goes on to state, "The camera did view parts of what later became a visiting team locker area.

"Due to the nature of the security system, the infrequent use of this area of the school, and the times of such use in conjunction with the location of the computer monitor, no one realized the potential problem.

"The images of the entire school camera system went to a computer in the school, which these defendants have been told could be accessed by someone with the correct IP address, computer program, correct identification, and password."

The response further states, "It is the understanding of these defendants that images from the cameras were designed to be directed to the computer in Mr. Jolley's office, and were stored for some period of time on that computer in accordance with the security system.

"Mr. Jolley became aware at some point that more of the room could be seen than just the door and hallway, but it is denied that Mr. Jolley had actual knowledge that the cameras were on students in what later became visiting team locker areas.

"Mr. Jolley knew the computer in his office could be accessed by other administrators within the system with the proper identity and password, but did not know specifically how."

The response admits that the username/identity and password remained at the original settings.

The lawsuit asserts that the computer hard drive was accessed 98 times between July 12, 2002, and January 10, 2003.

The school system's answer states, "Allegations of the complaint appear to reference the number of times the system was accessed for any purpose. These defendants have no knowledge that anyone ever viewed the images referenced in the complaint until after the incidents on January 9, 2003."

The response also states that the number appears to include times when school was not in session.

The response states, "These defendants deny any knowledge that any images were ‘in fact' accessed by remote internet computer connection. These defendants deny authorizing or failing to take reasonable steps, based on their knowledge at the time, to prevent images from being made accessible by remote internet computer connection."

The answer also states, "These defendants deny any fault, but these defendants aver that fault must be attributed to those persons, if any, who intentionally and criminally accessed the images of the plaintiffs, if any."

Girls on a visiting basketball team noticed a camera on January 9 of this year and brought it to the attention of their coach, who then notified LMS Principal Melinda Beaty.

A TBI agent, along with an investigator from Livingston Police Department and an Overton County deputy, went to the school the following evening to meet with school officials. The area in question was investigated and the processing unit for the school's camera system was removed at that time for further investigation. No charges were filed in connection with the video cameras at LMS.

The lawsuit alleges Beaty assured the team that the camera was either a "dummy" camera, or was not operable, or was not oriented in a way that could obtain images of the children dressing or undressing.

The school system's response states, "Ms. Beatty told the coach that the camera was directed on an outside door and hallway in the area. These defendants deny Ms. Beatty told anyone the camera was a ‘dummy' or was not operable."

The lawsuit alleged that School Director Bill Needham viewed the images and stated that they contained nothing more than images of a few bras and panties.

The answer states, "At the request of other administrators, Mr. Needham did review the images on the security system and did state that the images showed some bras and panties. The implications in the averments of Paragraph 23 of the complaint that Mr. Needham did not take the situation seriously are denied."

As to any judgment that may be assessed against the defendants, the school system's response asserts that immunities and limited liability limits afforded under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-20-101 apply. This would keep any judgment from reaching the multi-million dollar range.

The lawsuit asks for $100,000 per child for compensatory damages, $2,500,000 for punitive damages, and a permanent injunction precluding Overton County School System from placing hidden video or audio surveillance equipment in areas of the school system where persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including but not limited to locker room changing areas, rest rooms, and shower areas. The suit also asks for a 12-person jury.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Overton County School Board as an entity and the members individually, William Needham, Robert Jolley, Melinda Beaty, Edutech Inc., and up to 20 as yet unidentified agents or employees or former employees of Overton County School Board, Overton County School System, or Edutech, who participated in the planning, designing, placement, or maintenance of the video equipment at LMS.

Melinda Beaty, principal of LMS at the time, and Robert Jolley, assistant principal at the time, were reassigned to other areas in the school system on February 13.



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Accident victim returns home

Kevin Burmeister/OCN staff

Happy to be back in his own room again, Jared Walker takes it easy at his home in Rickman. "I'm just glad to be home," he said. "And alive."

Jared Walker, 12, of Rickman, returned home Friday, Aug. 15 for the first time since his four-wheeler accident of June 13.

Walker suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple leg fractures when his all-terrain vehicle was struck by an SUV. The brain injury affects his ability to talk and understand what is happening around him.

According to his family, he is making progress every day, but life can seem very scary to him because it is hard for him to make sense of the world and what people are saying.

Walker's brain injury has also affected his long and short-term memory, and small tasks that most can perform easily require a tremendous amount of effort from him. But he is trying hard and making progress in that area, too.

According to friends and relatives, his personality is coming back, as is his sense of humor. Jared's leg was seriously injured in the accident, and his recovery will be a long-term process. His family does remain hopeful that he will walk again, but for now, his prognosis is very uncertain. Because his leg must remain straight at all times, he is unable to travel in a regular vehicle.

Donations are currently being collected to help the family purchase a van with a lift. A fund has been established in his name at Bank of Overton County and Bank of Putnam County to assist his family with this expense.

Walker and his family expressed appreciation for the community's financial help, as well as the prayers.


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Girl dies from boating injuries at Dale Hollow

Tennessee Wildife Resources Agency (TWRA) is continuing the investigation of a weekend boating accident that occurred on Dale Hollow Lake and claimed the life of a 9 year-old Weirton, WV, girl.

Kinsley Ard was injured August 10 when the inner tube she and a 17 year-old family friend were riding on slammed into a tree on the bank of the Jouett Creek cove, about one-half mile from Star Point Marina in Pickett County.

TWRA officers Craig Norris and Johnny Poston reported that around 12:30 p.m. that Sunday, Richard Loeffler, 71, of Burgettstown, PA, was operating an 11-foot Bombardier personal watercraft in the Star Point cove, with a safety observer onboard, while pulling the two youngsters on a tube. The investigation revealed that Loeffler, a graduate of two national boating safety courses, was making a sharp turn in a narrow section of the cove when the incident occurred.

Witnesses said the girl received head wounds when her head struck a tree located approximately one foot from the shore. Immediately after the collision, Loeffler transported the girl to her parents in a boat nearby. The girl was taken to the marina and transported to Livingston Regional Hospital, and then flown to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. She died on Monday, Aug. 11 at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga.

TWRA officers plan to present evidence to the Pickett County District Attorney's Office that could result in charges ranging from Reckless Operation of a Vessel to Negligent Homicide.

TWRA Region III Boating Safety Coordinator Matt Clarey said, "Tennessee boaters should know the limitations of their vessels and equipment, which includes the length and condition of the pull rope. Being familiar with how a vessel operates while underway and pulling a device with people onboard is very important to consider in preventing this type of accident.

"Tubers and skiers should stay out of narrow coves. And vessel operators should make the proper use of safety observers as the life of those being pulled is in their hands."


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Board chairman says statement was incorrect


When Nursing Home Board Chairman Grant Pennington spoke about the workload of another nursing home during last month's meeting, he was wrong. And he wants it known.

"What I said was just hearsay," a regretful Pennington said.

He was referring to what he said in the August 11 Overton County Nursing Home Board regular session about the need for more staffing.

In that meeting, Pennington spoke of another nursing home in the area being 13 positions short on CNAs, and an employee of that facility working two weeks and 172 hours because of short-staffing.

Pennington said he based his remarks on what he thought to be true at the time, but has since found out his information was incorrect.

"From what I'm hearing now, what I said was totally wrong," he said.

"I apologize for any hardship it may have caused."

Another topic discussed in the August 11 meeting that may need clarifying was a vote to rescind the minutes of the previous meeting. According to Tennessee Code Annotated 8-44-104, minutes must be recorded. So, the minutes of a legal meeting cannot be erased.

When minutes are approved at a meeting, that is saying that the minutes are correct. Changes to minutes should only be made when the minutes on record are incorrect.

According to Chairman Pennington, the intent of the Board's action was to disallow a contract approved in the meeting. Pennington said that contract must be ratified by the County Commission to ever take effect.

Thus, the intent of the Board will still be carried out because a recommendation on that contract will not be presented to the County Commission. As for the official record, the meeting happened. As for the action, it may very well be as if it never happened.



Overton County News
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