A wrongful death lawsuit brought against the Howard County School District alleging wrongdoing in 17-year-old Kenny Suttner’s December 2016 death has been moved from federal to state court after a judge dismissed federal claims.
The lawsuit was first filed in July, and the case was moved from state to federal court in August, over a year after Kenny Suttner’s suicide. His mother, Angela Suttner, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the school district and four individual administrators. The lawsuit alleged the school district inadequately responded to several reports of Kenny Suttner’s bullying — an ongoing issue that Angela Suttner believes led to his eventual suicide.
The lawsuit initially brought 12 claims against the Howard County School District. Attorneys for the school district moved in August to dismiss all the counts because they said the suit, among other reasons, failed to identify individuals and was not filed within a necessary 180-day window.
A Missouri Western District judge ruled on Oct. 12 that seven counts based on federal claims be dismissed.
Judge Willie Epps Jr. dismissed federal claims that the district and the administrators violated ministerial duties and the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Epps also dismissed other claims relating to the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
Claims related to the Individuals with Disabilities Act were dismissed because Angela Suttner “failed to exhaust all administrative remedies” under the act before bringing a lawsuit, according to the judge’s ruling. Another count was dismissed because it was duplicated and alleged elsewhere in the lawsuit.
Angela Suttner alleged in the lawsuit that the school district and the four administrators were well aware that her son was being bullied yet did nothing to stop it or support him. The lawsuit claimed that Kenny Suttner, who was born with several medical conditions that affected his physical appearance and development, was a victim of disability-based discrimination.
“We’ve said all along that the loss of any student, including Kenny, is a tragedy,” said Tom Mickes, attorney for the Howard County School District. “But it doesn’t reduce the tragedy to make allegations against people who are innocent.”
Mickes said he is confident the state claims against the school district will be dismissed as well.
Angela Suttner’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.