Education

Attorney: Allegations against Lexington Catholic High School grow

A Washington, D.C., civil rights attorney said he is now representing three former Lexington Catholic High School students who allege separate incidents including harassment and assault.

Since last week, attorney Amos Jones has been representing a student who said he was harassed by teammates on Lexington Catholic’s football team. Investigators said the harassment was racially motivated, and a 17-year-old boy was charged Friday with harassing communications and third-degree terroristic threatening.

Jones told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that the second case involved a black student who withdrew from the school Tuesday after a string of incidents that culminated in the student being pushed in the cafeteria by a white student. No police report was filed, he said, and there are no plans to do so.

The third student who retained Jones is a white female who sought representation Thursday because of the school’s handling of her allegation that she was sexually assaulted by two white students at a chaperoned off-campus event, he said.

Jones said that the third case was handled internally by the school and that police were not called. “It’s a sexual assault cover-up case,” he said.

On the issue of the third student, Lexington Catholic High School officials did not return a call Thursday afternoon seeking comment. School officials had issued responses earlier in the other two cases.

Since last week, Jones said, seven current and former students and one former Lexington Catholic teacher “came forward alleging patterns of discrimination, harassment, reprisal and administrative cover-ups at the school in recent decades.”

Jones said he conferred Monday afternoon with attorneys in Lexington and met with members of the Lexington chapter of the NAACP, which pushed last week for the first case to be investigated as a hate crime.

In that case, The Key Newsjournal reported last week that Denisha Vinegar found threatening messages to her son on his computer. Vinegar told the Newsjournal the messages included a threat of lynching and comments telling her son to pick cotton or sell crack to make money.

Jones told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that, in the second case, the school had “seemed to be working” to address the student’s concerns, but he said the climate at the school got worse when police charged a student in Vinegar’s son’s case. Police have not identified the student who was charged because he is a minor.

In the second case, “private records going back several weeks indicate that the male student was repeatedly bullied this semester at school,” Jones said in a statement. “A parent of the withdrawn student, who had preferred leaving the student enrolled through the end of this school year to avoid disrupting his studies, described a bunker environment taking hold at the school, where some black students increasingly feel under siege. The student has adopted an independent-study plan to complete this year.”

Steve Angelucci, president of Lexington Catholic High School, issued a statement Wednesday, saying the alleged assault Monday was not reported to school officials until they heard from Jones on Tuesday.

“In fact, the school officials did not learn of this alleged assault until Mr. Jones sent a letter to the school’s attorney midday on Tuesday, April 12, 2016,” Angelucci’s statement said. “The letter provided no specifics of the situation and further instructed that no one was to contact the student involved or anyone in family. Under the law, we must and will honor that directive. We are saddened that without additional information, we cannot adequately investigate Monday’s alleged incident and determine what steps we could have taken to address what happened. ... We want to reiterate in the strongest way possible that we will investigate the incidents, complaints and concerns that students or their parents bring to our attention and take appropriate action.”

After the first case, Angelucci had said the school planned to implement diversity and sensitivity training, and he said “we offer our apologies to the student and family impacted by this.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

Current and former students and a former teacher have come forward alleging patterns of discrimination, harassment, reprisal and administrative cover-ups at the school in recent decades, according to civil rights lawyer Amos Jones.

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