A 2020 lawsuit filed against two Harrison High School employees related to a bullying incident has been dismissed in Cobb Superior Court.
Jorge Santa, a Smyrna resident and Harrison freshman at the time of the incident, sought damages from assistant principal Arthur O’Neill and Ivant Fields, a school resource officer. The suit alleged the two employees failed to adequately investigate the incident and wrongly pursued disciplinary action and criminal charges against Santa.
Judge Mary Staley Clark ruled Wednesday the suit was without merit. Under state law, because O’Neill and Fields’ actions were taken in their role as school employees, they cannot be held individually liable for them—unless they displayed negligence or malice.
The complaint alleged that in May 2018, Santa was taunted, harassed with racial slurs and assaulted with silly string by two Harrison High seniors. When Santa physically defended himself, he was charged with assault and battery by the Cobb District Attorney’s office. Those charges were eventually dropped.
Santa and his attorney, Mitch Skandalakis, contended O’Neill pursued a “biased and corrupt investigation” in an effort to whitewash the incident as a joke. They also alleged Santa was detained until he gave a “bogus confession.”
Judge Staley Clark was unconvinced. In her order of dismissal, with prejudice, she wrote, “Plaintiff has endeavored to include ‘buzzwords’ and conclusory allegations to that effect, but the Complaint still lacks in substance.”
A spokesperson for the Cobb School District told the Journal Wednesday, “When this lawsuit began, we said we looked forward to the facts of this case being adjudicated in court, not through social media. This is a final judgment which was found in the District’s favor and our comments from one year ago are as true now as they were then.”