SEBRING — The settlement in a negligence lawsuit against The School Board of Highlands County, which was accepted on behalf of a student, is being disputed by one of the student’s parents.
In September a settlement was reached in the lawsuit filed in November 2018 by a Morgan and Morgan attorney concerning a 13-year-old female Avon Park Middle School student who was the alleged victim of then-teacher Kevin Dewberry. The lawsuit’s complaint stated that the student suffered “emotional distress and injuries” due to incidents at the school over the time period of Oct. 1, 2017 through Feb. 4, 2018.
The complaint claimed the district was negligent for allowing the student to enter and remain in a classroom with Dewberry alone and unsupervised. Also, it claimed the district negligently failed to intercede in the ongoing sexual assaults of which the student was a victim when the district knew or should have known of the misconduct.
Tampa attorney Robert Hines filed the petition to approve the settlement, which states that an offer of a settlement has been made by Highlands County School Board (the defendant) and the terms of said settlement will be disclosed at the hearing to approve.
There is a hearing today for the petition to approve the settlement, but a parent of the alleged victim has filed an objection to the settlement.
In the objection filed Nov. 22, it is noted the parent believes the hiring of the attorney used to obtain the proposed settlement was done improperly. There is also an objection to the proposed fees sought to be paid to the attorney that procured the settlement.
The parent who has filed the objection has sought a second opinion regarding the proposed settlement and seeks the continuance of the hearing until the second opinion is obtained. If the hearing is not continued, the parent wants the court to deny the motion to approve the settlement and require the appointment of a guardian of the property.
On June 3, former school district teacher and basketball coach Dewberry, 45, accepted a plea deal giving him a 25-year prison sentence followed by 20 years of probation and the designation as a sexual predator.
Dewberry pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery, custodial authority.
He is currently incarcerated at the Mayo Correctional Institution Annex in Mayo (Lafayette County) with a current release date of Feb. 20, 2043.