Madison Co. school district found liable in bullying case

Molly McCoy was bullied by fliers posted around Pendleton Heights High School in 2008.

A big verdict this week in a school bullying case, where jurors found an Indiana school district liable.

The jury awarded $50,000 in damages to a Pendleton woman and her family Tuesday in a Madison County court.

For six years, they didn't talk publicly about the pain from bullying that happened to Molly McCoy inside Pendleton Heights High School.

"Most people did not know this was going on in our lives. We were just fighting to survive with our family," said Molly's mother, Jennifer McCoy. "14- and 15-year olds in high school, they can be very cruel."

But this family, who sued South Madison Community Schools and came out victorious, is speaking out now about the case and the need to protect kids.

A jury found the district liable and awarded the McCoys $50,000 in damages after the family claimed the district didn't do enough to protect Molly after she was bullied. Jurors said they thought testimony from school leaders just wasn't consistent, which is why they found in favor of the McCoys.

"They are liable. We fought a giant and we won," Jennifer McCoy said.

The McCoys say the incident happened during Molly's freshman year at Pendleton Heights, in March 2008.

"Someone came up to me and said, 'Have you seen the picture of you?' and I said, 'What picture?'," Molly explained.

It was a photoshopped, sexually-suggestive picture on flyers posted in hallways and bathrooms throughout the school.

"My actual phone number was at the bottom and it said 'Call for a good time'," Molly said.

But what hurt worse than the student bullying, the McCoys say, was the response from school leaders. Molly claims she was told to go back to class after reporting it, that the flyers were left hanging up, her parents were not called and she was never offered counseling.

"Not having support of people you'd think were there to support you - teachers, the school - I just felt I was alone at the time," Molly said.

"We're not saying necessarily you can prevent what walked in that school, but you sure can with your reactions and follow-up to it, and they did very little of either unfortunately," her mother added.

The McCoys filed a civil lawsuit eight months after the incident, that claimed the district was negligent in how it handled the bullying.

"They did not follow their own policies and procedures in their own handbook and that's what they were found liable for," Jennifer McCoy said.

Now, with a verdict in their favor and a new state law that requires schools to have specific bullying rules they must follow, the McCoys hope victims get protection in the very place they need it most.

"I'm glad that we stood for what's right and I hope I can help others too," Molly said.