Ashland School District is denying all responsibility for a 2017 fight that occurred on school grounds and gave rise to two lawsuits earlier this year.
In response to lawsuits from two students involved in the fight, the high school has denied it was negligent in not preventing the fight and that it maliciously disciplined one student in the aftermath.
Portland lawyer Peter Mersereau, who is representing the school district in both cases, declined to comment on pending litigation.
The first lawsuit was filed in April by Sam Dixon, on behalf of her son, identified as M.C. in the suit. That lawsuit has progressed to a pretrial hearing next April, with a scheduled trial May 21, 2019.
In her lawsuit, which asks for $60,000, Dixon alleged that M.C. was targeted by students, including members of the football team, after they heard him use the “n” word multiple times at an off-campus party. The complaint alleged that on April 18, 2017, those students began a physical altercation with M.C. in the Ashland High School courtyard shortly after school officials had warned the students to stay away from each other.
M.C. sustained a concussion, bruised larnyx and other injuries, the lawsuit said. It also accused the school district of malicious prosecution, saying that officials expelled M.C. for his use of the “n” word and in a manner inconsistent with the school’s expulsion policy.
Dixon’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
The second lawsuit was brought by now-graduate Che Tratensek-Contor, who allegedly intervened in the fight as a “Good Samaritan.” His lawsuit lists the district and former student Anthony Swanson as defendants, alleging that Swanson punched Tratensek-Contor, which left him with a broken jaw and a concussion.
Tratensek-Contor is claiming at least $318,044 in damages.
In an affirmative defense filed with the court earlier this month, Swanson and his lawyer, Amanda Thorpe, stated that Swanson also was acting as a Good Samaritan, intervening because “Plaintiff was assaulting a fellow student and Defendant acted to defend that student.”
“My client ... essentially was acting to stop the incident from escalating and turning into a full brawl involving more students than necessary,” Thorpe said.
Faith Marie Morse, Tratensek-Contor’s lawyer, previously said her client was on a liquid diet while he had his jaw wired shut for several months.
“When you have that many students that there can be a fight that lasts that long on school property and during school hours, there’s a supervision problem,” Morse told the Mail Tribune in July.
The school district defended itself by saying that Tratensek-Contor should have remained uninvolved and that “Plaintiff’s alleged damages were caused in whole by the intentionally tortious and assaultive conduct of co-defendant Anthony Swanson.”
Swanson pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault, which is a Class A misdemeanor, served eight days in detention and paid $11,874 restitution. Thorpe echoed comments from Swanson’s earlier media liaison, lawyer Christopher Missiaen, that Swanson has “paid his dues.”
Morse filed a motion asking the court to compel the school district to provide documents related to the incident and the events preceding it, such as communication between administrators. She said the case stands out to her because “everyone is getting along and cooperating.”
“We want to see that it’s handled professionally,” Thorpe said. “There’s already been enough conflict.”
Thorpe said a trial may be set for late spring 2019, but no date has been set.