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Nugent case dismissed - KOAM TV 7

Nugent case dismissed

Updated: May 9, 2013 06:19 PM

UPDATE 7/15/2015:  Hearing for Dismissal occurred Monday July 13, 2015.  A settlement has been made and both parties have asked for voluntary dismissal. 
Attorney for the Defendants says the insurance carrier made the settlement based on its policy with the school district. It has settled for $300,000. 

The civil action alleged district officials failed to protect their 14-year-old son, Luke, from bullying, which ultimately led to him taking his own life.
Jessica Nugent Filed the civil suit in jasper county, but was transferred to US District court. 


Named as defendants along with the school district were Superintendent Phillip Cook, Junior High Principal Scott Sawyer, bus driver David Roughton,  Assistant Superintendent Gary Reed, Assistant Junior High Principal Trevor Chase, Assistant High School Principal Theresa Wilson, and Junior High Counselor Ben Withers.
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2014:  Lawyers for the Carl Junction Missouri School District filed a request for Electronic Communications from Nugent. The school district's filing is part of its response to wrongful death suit filed by the parents. The parents accuse the school district of not protecting their son from bullying after he came out as bisexual. The school district is asking for Nugent's photos, Facebook messages, and other communications.

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2013:  Mother on a mission after Carl Junction teen's suicide 

A mother says the effects of bullying lead to her son's death.

Sadly we are seeing this happen time and time again in our community, the latest suicide just a few days ago.

In March, Luke Nugent committed suicide.  His parents, Jessica and Mike, are still grieving his death.  They say their family was like a tripod, with three legs, and without Luke it's a challenge to balance every day.

"Every time we get into the car, didn't matter if we were going to Stones Corner a mile away or all the way to Utah to visit the in-laws, we were singing and that boy could sing," says Jessica.

At 14 years old he was full of life and his parents were hopeful for his future.

"We wanted Luke to live a life where his actions would be the judgement," Jessica says.  "Respect and mobility, all your basic good morals but especially we're all just human beings."

Luke came out on Facebook as being bisexual in April 2012.  His mother says because of that he was bullied and harassed.

"I think it took him a long time to decide whether or not it was something he shared, but once he did I don't think he anticipated the response he received," Jessica says.

Jessica says she's been told by Luke's friends that he was harassed about his sexuality at school and after the bell rang.

"I think that the vast majority took place on the bus," she says.  "I have to be careful because some of these other kids are children, but the regular use of derogatory language I can't repeat, I just can't unless someone holds me down and makes me.  I just don't say those words, I wish no one would because I think he was a little shocked.  It was derogatory terms used for homosexual or bisexual people."

Jessica says she contacted Carl Junction Schools about her son being bullied.  According to police reports Luke's principal, Scott Sawyer, investigated her claims and rode Luke's bus to keep an eye on students.

In a sheriff's report Sawyer said "It was more like it was more of the upper class men giving under classmen a hard time, rather than singling out anyone and bullying them."

"Missouri doesn't require us to provide transportation, we do provide it as a service for our community and our parents so when we put a bus driver on the front of the bus with her or his back turned, their responsibility is to pick up those children and get them to school in a safe manner and take them home in a safe manner," says Tracie Skaggs, Public Relations for Carl Junction Schools.

According to Luke's mother the name calling didn't end, but it didn't stop Luke from being himself.

"It struck him as very matter of fact, I believe that he thought everyone else would think it was very matter of fact," Jessica says.

On March 15 Luke Nugent rode home for the last time on the bus.  No one will say for sure if Luke was bullied on that ride home but the next day he was gone.

"My husband and I were going to run some errands," Jessica says.  "Luke was still sleeping.  I was going to tell him we were going to go or ask him if he wanted to go with us.  I just knocked on his door, he didn't answer.  I thought he was still sleeping and I found him.  After I found Luke I don't remember a whole lot, just terror and screaming and hysteric.  My husband took me and I waited outside with the neighbors until police arrived."

It's a nightmare she says she will never wake up from.

A mistake Luke made that can't be reversed.

"It's a fatal mistake, he was 14 years old, not equipped to make a decision that would end his life.  He was just a child and that's a fatal mistake.  He should be with us right now."

The sheriff's investigation after Luke's death shows Jessica Nugent mentioned school bus bullying to officers, but, his father never mentioned bullying or a recent breakup as a possible cause.

CORRECTION:  We initially reported Luke's father mentioned to police that a recent break up with a girlfriend may have been a cause, however, we've since learned Luke's father told police a break up was not to blame for his death.

Luke's mom is determined bullying caused her son to take his life.  Now she's speaking out to try and keep other teens from making that fatal mistake.

Jessica created LukeNugentMemorial.com (on Facebook) in her son's honor and hopes Carl Junction Schools recognize the school has a bullying problem, and change the way they respond.

"I wake up because I have no choice, but I go ahead and get out of bed because I bet there's a mother out there that thinks 'my child is not going to committee suicide but should I get involved anyway?' - yeah, do it," Jessica says.

The district stands behind their policies and anti-bullying programs already in place.

"What else could have been done - I just don't know - there's a lot of speculation about what could have been done," says Skaggs.  "I just hope they will find the courage to stand up, speak up and everyone else who hears it will take the right action and do everything they can to stand up and protect our children, and that's what I hope and I think that's the goal of the district - that something wonderful could happen in Luke's memory."

"I want him to be remembered for his sense of humor, his thirst of knowledge, and his absolute passion for standing up for the little guy," Jessica says.  "If all human beings have a little more of those three qualities, we would be a lot closer to a bully free world."

We asked to interview both Carl Junction Principal Scott Sawyer and Superintendent Phil Cook.  Both declined our request.

Officials say there are people to turn to if you want help.  A suicide help line is available at 1-800-247-0661.  If you don't want to call you can send a text to the Ozark Center Hotline at 85130.

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