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St. Paul's School sued by former student in bullying case

A Baltimore County mother is suing St. Paul's School for Boys and two administrators for $150,000, claiming that her son was bullied for years by other students and the school did nothing to protect him.

In a lawsuit claiming breach of contract and negligence, Nannette Krupa of Nottingham argues that the school in Brooklandville effectively expelled her son a half-year before he was due to graduate while not disciplining other students, including some attending the school on athletic scholarships, who she claims attacked her son.

In an interview Tuesday, Krupa said that her son was attacked three times physically, most severely in a bathroom when he was a freshman, and in between those incidents was a frequent target of abuse. His lunch was often stolen, his backpack was flipped inside out and he was called names, she said.

The suit was filed last month against the school, naming also Headmaster Thomas J. Reid and John Marinacci, the Upper School dean of students. The suit, which identifies Krupa's son only as "NZ," contends that the boy sought help several times from Marinacci, who "failed and/or refused to take any action to prevent the verbal harassment, physical threats and battery suffered by NZ" at the school.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Reid said "I have no comment on that right now." Marinacci's voice mail message asks that he be contacted by e-mail, but he did not respond to attempts to reach him by e-mail on Tuesday and Thursday.

The lawyer representing the school, Thomas Patrick Ryan of Rockville, did not return phone messages left on Tuesday and Thursday.

In a brief answer to the suit filed July 21, Ryan did not address the specifics of Krupa's claims. Among his arguments are that Krupa may lack legal standing to bring the suit, that she fails to make claims on which relief can be granted by the court and that damages may be barred by the doctrine of "charitable immunity," which relieves a charity of liability.

The complaint in the lawsuit refers to "years of attacks," but does not describe what happened. Krupa supplied more details in an interview at her lawyer's office in Towson.

She said that until last December, neither her son nor the school told her he had been assaulted. She said she was called about this for the first time early that month, after her son said he stood up to his tormentors and was disciplined for it.

She said he was victimized because he's more bookish than athletic and, because he started St. Paul's in the ninth grade, he had trouble fitting in at first. Also, she said, he was teased frequently because he suffers from a nervous condition and has a habit of constantly pulling off his eyelashes.

The incident after which Krupa's son was asked to withdraw from the school took place on the morning of Dec. 6. Krupa said her son saw that incident as the last straw after years of being bullied.

She said her son was spending a free period in a chapel classroom drinking tea and reading. Two lower-classmen walked in and started tossing Beanie Babies back and forth — eventually throwing them at her son, knocking off his glasses and nearly spilling the tea.

Krupa said her son picked up a screwdriver off a desk, held it and told the boys he'd had enough.

"He said, 'I'm tired of this,'" Krupa said. "'I've put up with this my whole life … leave me alone and I'll leave you alone.'"

Krupa said her son also described an attack in a bathroom in his freshman year and said he was beaten up in a classroom in his sophomore year. The family was not satisfied with the school's response in either of the cases.

The suit claims the school "failed to live up to its own philosophy and handbook and supported students harassing and attacking a student suffering from a physical condition." The suit also claims the school "interfered" with the boy's college and scholarship application process.

Krupa said in the interview that her son, who is 18, was never officially told that he had been expelled from St. Paul's, but he was not allowed to attend this spring's commencement ceremony. She said his status was unclear from December through March, as she and her lawyers tried to negotiate an arrangement with the school that would allow him to graduate with his classmates.

"He wrote letters of apology, I appealed to them," Krupa said. "He doesn't understand why they would treat him this way," said Krupa, whose 6-year-old daughter will be starting her third year this fall at St. Paul's.

Krupa said she learned that he would not receive his St. Paul's diploma in a March conversation with an official at St. John's College in Annapolis. She said the college has accepted her son for admission in the fall.

Krupa said her son has been spending the spring and summer completing a college algebra course at the Community College of Baltimore County and taking high school courses through an online school from which he hopes to receive a diploma.

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