Lawsuits refiled against school board

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Three lawsuits against the Brunswick County Board of Education and three former Brunswick County Schools employees have been voluntarily dismissed. They were refiled Monday.

Attorney Robert Tatum, who has law offices in Southport and Raleigh, said he refiled the lawsuits after the board of education’s attorney, Kathleen Tanner, filed a motion to dismiss the board from all cases. The motion states the board is protected by the doctrine of governmental immunity according to N.C. General Statute 115C-42.

Tatum said the motion made him want to amend each case to include breach of contract and a constitutional claim for violation of equal protection rights, but said Tanner would oppose this amendment.

“Rather than that, I just dismissed and refiled,” Tatum said. “I don’t anticipate having to refile anything after this.”

The refiled cases canceled Tanner’s motion for dismissal, and if the board wanted to continue to seek dismissal, a new motion would need to be filed, Tatum said.

“I understand that Mr. Tatum is filing voluntary dismissals of his three cases ee and plans to refile new lawsuits on behalf of his clients,” Tanner wrote in an e-mail Monday.

“He certainly has the right under the rules of court to voluntarily dismiss his cases one time and refile, and I would assume he is doing so in an attempt to cure deficiencies in his amended complaints in the three cases.”

The three suits filed on behalf of parents name the Brunswick County Board of Education and three former Brunswick County Schools employees, each claiming emotional distress and negligence among other claims.

Dennis and Betty Hager filed a lawsuit last July after the board failed to find sufficient evidence of a relationship between the Hagers’ then 16-year-old daughter and Brenton Wuchae. At the time Wuchae was a 40-year-old South Brunswick High School science teacher and track coach.

According to the lawsuit, Dennis Hager spoke with Vann Pennell, SBHS principal, and Chris Roehner, SBHS athletic director, about his concerns of a relationship between Wuchae and his daughter. Dennis Hager provided phone records, which showed “a high number of phone calls and text messages,” between the two.

Wuchae was suspended with pay last May, but the Brunswick County Board of Education found no evidence of a relationship between the two. Wuchae married the student June 18, the same day he resigned from Brunswick County Schools.

Robert and Kathy Frye filed a lawsuit last September against the board and former West Brunswick High School math teacher David Arrowood after he was found engaging in a sexual relationship with their then 17-year-old daughter, the lawsuit states. The suit claims the board failed to conduct a proper legal investigation.

According to the lawsuit, on April 12, 2006, two assistant principals opened the door to Arrowood’s classroom and found him and the student “engaging in a sexual act.”

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office was informed of the situation that night by a WBHS school resource officer who later called back to say the “situation was going to be handled internally, and that the police did not need to respond,” the lawsuit states.

“Upon information and belief, these instructions that the police not get involved came from Katie McGee, school board superintendent,” the lawsuit states.

Arrowood was charged with five felony charges, was sentenced to 90 days in prison, five years probation and is now a registered sex offender, the lawsuit states.

David and Melinda Cooper filed the third suit last September against the board and former South Brunswick High School custodian Collins Hewett. The Coopers allege Hewett molested their learning disabled child during school hours on school property between 2005-2007.

The lawsuit states Hewett was “regularly obtaining notes from the school office to have [the student] excused from the classrooms in order to engage in sexual molestation of the child.” The Coopers had no knowledge their son was being removed from class by Hewett, the lawsuit states.

Hewett was charged with seven counts of indecent liberties with a child and seven accounts of sex offense with a child, the lawsuit states.