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Sides reach $150,000 deal in school-bullying lawsuit

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A former student at a central Indiana high school has agreed to a $150,000 settlement of her lawsuit claiming school officials failed to stop bullying by a male classmate.

Neither the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. nor the male student admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, which calls for a $100,000 payment from the district's insurance company and $50,000 from the male student's family insurer, The Republic of Columbus reported Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit filed last year and dismissed Nov. 22 claimed the male student at Columbus North High School spread sexually explicit rumors about the girl.

Cheryl Sobieralski said that her daughter, who is now 20 and in college, was bullied and intimidated by the boy throughout the 2008-09 school year and the following summer during band camp. She said that led to her daughter having panic attacks and talking about suicide.

"We had meetings with the school, sent letters to every member of the school board and the superintendent, and the school simply would not do anything about it," Sobieralski said. "We didn't know what to do."

School district Superintendent John Quick said a district review of the bullying claims "found that folks acted in an appropriate manner."

Quick said the district was one of the first in the state to train all administrators in bullying prevention and that it has an active anti-bullying task force.

"I do think that we have good policies and procedures in place, and our folks do follow those," he said. "We don't ignore (bullying). We follow up, and we investigate. We try to take appropriate action."

Joseph O'Connor, an attorney for the male student, said that his client "vigorously denied the allegations."

"Purely to avoid the expense of a federal jury trial, my clients' insurer agreed to pay a settlement, which specifically stated that our clients denied any wrongdoing," O'Connor said.

Sobieralski said the family had never wanted to file a lawsuit and was relieved simply to resolve the matter.

"We never went into this for a monetary reason," she said. "It was always to make a point and to try to change people's reaction to bullying in (the district) in the future."

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