New federal court filings in a lawsuit against Williamsburg Christian Academy by the school’s insurer show the suit has come to loggerheads after the insurer sued the school to stop representing it in another lawsuit.
The private Christian school in the Stonehouse District of James City County has been sued twice after it kicked a 17-year-old off campus in 2016 when he had an allergic reaction to his medicine, according to filings in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court and U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
In filings late last month, attorneys for Williamsburg Christian Academy and Selective Insurance Company of the Southeast have fundamental disagreements over the same legal precedents. Attorneys for Selective Insurance did not respond to a request for comment.
William Thetford, an attorney for the school, said the federal filings “speak for themselves” and there is continued disagreement between the parties over whether or not the federal court should continue hearing the case.
Selective Insurance has argued in the federal suit it shouldn’t need to pay for the school’s legal defense in Williamsburg, while the school has said the insurer’s lawsuit in federal court is in the wrong venue.
The suit stems from a contract action lawsuit brought against the school by a Williamsburg family.
In 2015, the family enrolled their son, John, at Williamsburg Christian Academy for his senior year and paid the academy tuition for the year, according to court documents.
As the year progressed, the 17-year-old student felt targeted by school staffers and administrators for his personal beliefs and attire, John’s parents allege in the court filings. The school said the student had a pattern of disruptive behavior and pointed to multiple changes in the student’s anxiety prescriptions as well.
On April 1, 2016, John suffered an allergic reaction to anxiety medication that resulted in irrational behavior, the filings said. While confused and erratic, the head of the school forcibly removed the teen from the campus for disruptive behavior.
The head of the school, a new hire, did not contact John’s parents until he had already driven more than 20 minutes to get home, according to court documents.
As the school’s internal disciplinary hearing process played out, administrators decided John should not return to campus or participate in any school-affiliated activities and did not appear to follow its own student handbook for disciplinary action, filings in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia allege.
Federal filings include demand letters sent by John’s family that accuse the school of using inconsistent disciplinary standards.
“My clients and many others are aware of two other senior boys in the school who exposed themselves in class, took pictures of their genitals and posted those pictures on social media,” the letter says. “Those boys received a five-day suspension for that behavior. It is impossible to explain the disparity in treatment in any meaningful way.”
John couldn’t attend his own graduation ceremony or participate in field trips, according to court documents. He was ordered to continue his schooling from home and Williamsburg Christian Academy would mail his diploma.
In May 2018, John’s parents filed a lawsuit against the school for breach of contract, according to the court filings. They seek $100,000 in damages plus interest and court costs.
The school’s insurer filed a federal lawsuit against the school on May 3, 2019. The insurer claimed it didn’t want to provide a legal defense for the school in the state court dispute, according to federal court filings.
Selective Insurance Company of the Southeast continues to provide the school with a legal defense in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court lawsuit, the court documents said.
The insurer has argued, among other things, that because the school entered into a contract with the family, it doesn’t need to pay for the school’s lawyers in the suit.
“(The insurer) seeks a declaration … that Williamsburg Christian Academy is not entitled to coverage,” the suit claims.
If the family had sought damages for any perceived bodily injury or property damage, then the insurer might have to provide the school with attorneys to fight the suit, according to the filings.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.