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The parents of a 17-year-old Indiana high school student say the constant bullying their son suffered due to his Middle Eastern ethnicity culminated in a beating that injured his brain, and are suing the school district for failing to intervene as his physical and verbal abuse escalated.
David Osama Haddad, a junior at Lake Central of Jordanian descent, was attacked in the hallway of his high school on Nov. 8 after repeated incidents of bullying he had reported to district officials, his parents allege in their lawsuit, according to NBC Chicago. Haddad suffered a traumatic brain injury and was treated at Community Hospital in Munster. Photos released by the family's attorney show his face severely bruised.
"The principal [Robert McDermott] turned a blind eye to the repeated bullying and harassment of this student," the Haddad family's attorney Kenneth Allen said in a press conference Monday. "The principal was notified on several occasions of the situation, but did nothing. Inaction by those in charge in the face of injustice cannot be tolerated."
Haddad's parents, Osama and Hind, say the bullying their son suffered was consistently tied into his Middle Eastern heritage, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. They say Haddad was often called a "terrorist," that taunted him when Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi were killed, and spread rumors that Gaddafi was Haddad's uncle.
In January, the teen's parents say a group of boys showed up at the family's home in St. John, Ind. and tried to lure Haddad outside to beat him up, prompting his parents to inform the school of their concerns, which they say only escalated the problem, NBC reports. Hind Haddad said her son quit the football and baseball teams in part due to harassment, but the bullying only intensified.
The district's Superintendent Larry Veracco is named in the lawsuit, along with School Board President George Baranowski, Principal Robert McDermott, and Assistant Principal Sean Beasley Jr., according to the Sun-Times. Several students are also named in the assault.
The Haddad family is seeking monetary compensation for their son's injuries and have accused the school of violating his civil rights and failing to intervene, the Northwest Indiana Times reports. They filed a temporary restraining order Monday to prevent the video surveillance of the beating and prior complaints they had filed from being tampered with or altered. The students accused are junior and senior football and baseball players, Allen told the Times.
The Haddad family say their son's injuries were severe, but the school failed to provide him medical treatment or call the police. Allen told the Times that none of the students involved in the beating were disciplined, but that David Haddad was suspended for 10 days for throwing one defensive punch while trying to get off the floor.
Haddad's mother Hind says she's afraid to send her son back to school.
"This is a parent's nightmare, when they call you to tell you your son has been beaten up," Hind Haddad told the Times. "It's unbelievable."