The Hallsville School District has agreed to pay the mother of an allegedly bullied teen who took her own life $100,000, according to a settlement agreement released Thursday in response to a Sunshine Law request.
Elizabeth Overstreet sued Hallsville R-IV Schools in August 2018 in U.S. District Court Western District of Missouri over the death of her 13-year-old daughter Rylie Wagner. Overstreet alleged Rylie was the victim of ongoing abuse at the school because of her sexual orientation, clothes and other characteristics, and school administrators did nothing to stop it, leading to her suicide in April 2017.
Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps Jr. on Tuesday approved the settlement reached through mediation. According to the agreement, school insurance provider Missouri United School Insurance Council will pay $100,000 to Call and Gentry law group, who received one-third of the award for representing Overstreet.
Charles Gentry, who served as lead attorney did not return calls seeking comment. Hallsville schools approved in closed session during the Feb. 19 board of education meeting, according to a draft of the minutes of the meeting.
“The Hallsville community continues to mourn the loss of Rylie Wagner, a bright and talented student who died in April 2017," district spokesperson Kari Yeagy-Swofford said about the settlement. "We are hopeful that the settlement offered by Missouri United School Insurance Council, the Hallsville School District’s insurance provider, will help bring closure to Rylie’s family,”
The agreement states the school district denies any fault or liability in Wagner’s death and discharges the district from any future claims.
“As specified in the settlement agreement, the district denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing by the board of education, administrators, teachers, or other employees. Our district takes all allegations of bullying seriously and completes a full investigation into every report of such allegations,” Yeagy-Swofford said.
Overstreet, in the lawsuit, claimed she and and parents of other bullied students complained but school administrators did not take any action to prevent the alleged abuse. On one occasion, the petition reads, Rylie was assaulted by the child of a teacher at the school and the district ignored the complaint.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department investigated the bullying, but said there was no evidence to support an arrest. The department has refused to release any documents related to its investigation, citing state juvenile records laws.
“After a thorough and extensive investigation of this case there was no evidence of criminal activity,” sheriff’s spokesman Tom O’Sullivan said about the department’s findings.