(SARATOGA, Calif.) — The parents of Audrie Pott have filed a claim against her school district alleging that administrators were negligent and denied there was a bullying problem even after their daughter hanged herself, the family’s attorney told ABC News.
The claim against the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District in California came hours after three 16-year-old boys appeared at a closed juvenile court hearing on charges they sexually assaulted Pott at a Labor Day party, wrote humiliating messages on her body, and then shared a photo of the incident with classmates.
Robert Allard, the attorney representing the Pott family, said that in spring 2012 Audrie made a report of bullying with the school, but administrators failed to document it.
In addition, school administrators made the “determination shortly after Audrie’s passing [on Sept. 12, 2012] that, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, bullying played no role in this tragedy,” Allard said.
A copy of the complaint was not made public. However, it keeps the option open for the Pott family to explore legal action, Allard said.
Filing a claim against a public agency is required before a potential lawsuit can proceed.
On Wednesday evening, the school released a written statement answering questions about the case and denying that Audrie reported being bullied.
“Since her death, we have thoroughly examined our counseling records and interviewed our staff to see if there were any warning signs or indications that Audrie was being bullied or harassed at school,” the school district said. “That internal investigation showed that she never reported or sought counseling for bullying before or after the alleged sexual assault. If she had, our staff would have reported it and taken preventative steps to stop it.”
Pott’s parents and stepmother spoke at a news conference on Monday for the first time since their daughter hanged herself last year.
“We had no idea what happened to Audrie until after her memorial service,” said her stepmother, Lisa Pott. “Once we found out, the three of us [Audrie’s parents] started to investigate.”
Pott read emotionally from her stepdaughter’s Facebook messages, in which, she said, Audrie named two of her alleged attackers.
“I’m in hell. Everyone knows about that night,” Audrie wrote on Facebook. “The whole school knows.”
Her family members said they took their concerns to school administrators, who told them they were having trouble gathering evidence because at least one of the teenagers had lost or broken their phone.
Although the boys were removed from the football team after the school was made aware of the alleged assault, the Pott family said the school refused to expel the boys because the alleged assault did not happen at a campus-related activity.
“There is absolutely no doubt to the reason Audrie took her life and the three people who are arrested are responsible for her death,” Lisa Pott said.
Bob Mistele, superintendent of Saratoga Union High School District, said in a statement last week the school was cooperating with the law enforcement investigation.
“Collaborating with our parents, students, staff and community, we will continue to work diligently to maintain a positive climate at our high schools based on respect, responsibility, and open communication that discourages cyber bullying and inappropriate conduct,” Mistele said.
Attorneys representing the three teenagers released a statement last week saying there had been “inaccurate” reporting on the case and that their clients were to be regarded as innocent.
“Much of what has been reported over the last several days has been inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link Audrie’s suicide to the specific actions of these three boys,” the statement said.
The Pott family has also filed a civil lawsuit against the three unidentified boys and is seeking damages.
“Coming forward and going public has not been an easy thing to do,” Lisa Pott said. “It’s ripped open wounds and reminds us of everything our family lost. No one should have to lose their daughter in this horrific way.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Megan McNulty, Deseret News
Frank Pallotta, CNN
Tal Kopan and Evan Perez, CNN
Parija Kavilanz, CNN