Florence, South Carolina – Florence Christian School is being sued by a student’s parents. They claim their child was attacked by another student while a teacher/coach was there but did nothing.
The lawsuit lists the parents as James Doe and Jane Doe, and the child listed in the lawsuit as John Doe (J.D.). The lawsuit includes Florence Baptist Temple, Florence Christian School, coach Michael Baron Smith, III, and a young person who hasn’t turned eighteen yet so their identity was not revealed publicly.
The alleged incident happened in October 2023, the lawsuit claims
According to the lawsuit, Florence Christian School is part of Florence Baptist Temple, which gets money from and works closely with the church. The church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention and follows its beliefs. The lawsuit states J.D. was in eighth grade when another student, known as S.P., attacked him by choking him in the school’s gym on October 18, 2023. An excerpt from the lawsuit reads:
S.P. was bigger and two years older than J.D. S.P. had J.D.’s neck in the antecubital (front of elbow) bend of this arm. S.P.’s muscles were flexed so tightly that J.D. could not breathe, and he could not speak. J.D. tried to let S.P. know he was being choked out by hitting his hand against S.P.’s trunk and legs to let him know that he was in trouble. S.P. would not stop choking him. J.D. reports hearing peoples voices fade as he loses his vision. Then, J.D.’s body went limp as he lost consciousness and S.P. dropped him and caused J.D.’s head to hit the wall and then the floor. J.D.’s friends report he was unconscious for approximately thirty (30) seconds. While S.P. was choking out J.D., Coach Smith was sitting beside them. Coach Smith was wrapping another student’s ankle, sitting 3ft away from where S.P. was choking out J.D.
Coach Smith is a teacher and Coach with authority over students and did not intervene. J.D. recalls looking at Coach Smith as he was choked out. When J.D. woke up, he immediately began to cry. J.D. sat up, looked at Coach Smith, and Coach Smith didn’t acknowledge him. An older student, P.W., assisted J.D. and assisted him to the locker room where J.D. sat down. Once J.D. was able to walk, he approached Coach Smith and asked if he had seen what happened. Coach Smith told J.D. to sit down and told him that they would talk later. Coach Chris Coker entered the locker room to get the boys ready for practice. Other students told Coach Coker that Coach Smith saw what happened and did nothing and was not going to do anything. Coach Coker asked what happened, and the students told him what happened to J.D. The interaction with Coach Coker was approximately 5-6 minutes after the choking incident occurred. At this time, Coach Coker began to talk to the students about what happened. J.D. sat in the locker room from 2:45 until Coach Garrett approached him around 3:20. Having spoken to J.D., Coach Garrett called Jane Doe to tell her about the incident.
The lawsuit alleges that J.D. was mistreated on several occasions by the coach prior to the October 2023 incident.
It says, “J.D. is often made to do excessive exercises such as bear crawls and sandpits by Coach Smith. A bear crawl requires crawling the length of the football field on hands and toes with knees bent. Sandpits require the students to crawl forty (40) yards using only their elbows through a pit of sand, gravel, and a lot of times, fire ants. It is grueling. ”
The lawsuit accuses the school of several wrongdoings, such as not being careful in hiring, watching over, and keeping staff, being careless or acting dangerously on purpose, causing extreme upset on purpose or by being reckless, and physically attacking someone.
School’s principal issues statement
In a statement sent to ABC15, the school principal, Jim Berry, confirmed that school officials know about the lawsuit, but declined to comment since they hadn’t received the lawsuit yet, citing lack of information. He further added that students’ safety and wellbeing remain school’s top priority.
This is part of the of the statement:
“We love and care for all of our students and their families while their here at our school. And safety really is one of our main priorities that we’ve really focused on for the 50 years that we’ve been here as a school. And we continue to do as we try to provide a Christian, excellent academic situation for our kids when here at our school, ” said Berry.