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Guardians suing Winchester school system over bullying

By Sally Voth

A Winchester couple is suing the city school system in U.S. District Court for $150,000.

Robert and Catherine Augustine filed the suit in Harrisonburg on Thursday, according to online court records. They are the guardians of two minors identified by only their initials in the complaint, which alleges violations of the Civil Rights and the Rehabilitation acts.

One of the minors, referred to as T.A., "was the victim of [bullying], assault, intimidation and had his civil rights violated" at Handley during the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 school years, the civil complaint alleges.

The Augustines alerted teachers and staff to the problems, but the issues continued, according to the complaint.

It states that the other minor, M.A., was the victim of bullying, cyber bullying and intimidation by a fellow student on Feb. 19. The complaint alleges that the school didn't act to protect the student.

The second alleged victim was also bullied and harassed Feb. 20, the complaint states.

It states that both students are disabled and are getting medical care, and "have suffered emotional and psychological issues."

The Augustines assumed guardianship of the two minors 17 years ago in Massachusetts, according to court documents.

The Winchester Public School division hadn't filed a response to the suit as of Friday afternoon.

In a Friday afternoon phone interview, School Board Chairman John Bishop said he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

"Even if I had, I couldn't comment on it," he said. "We don't comment on litigation."

Augustine, who did not return requests for comment Friday, is representing himself, according to online court records.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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