INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -- When a student is hurt by a bully, what kind of rights do you have as a parent and who gets stuck with the medical bill?
Karl Blair was shocked to see what happened with his son.
Blair came to KCTV5 News looking for help after he says his 13-year-old son, James, was beaten by another student at Bingham Middle School in Independence.
Blair even says he was called by the school nurse advising him to take James to see a doctor, yet when he arrived, he found his son standing alone outside.
“To think that the staff left him outside, alone.” Blair said, remembering the scene. “No one was there when I got there. No one. That hurt; that really hurt.”
Blair took James to his primary doctor, who told them to go to the emergency room.
Doctors ran multiple tests. They ruled out the most serious health risks, but still cautioned them to follow concussion protocol; resting often, limiting physical activity and keeping mental exercises light.
With James on the mend, the ER visit left them with another major problem; about $17,000 in medical bills. When Blair went to the school for help, he was told he wouldn’t get any.
“I called on a weekly basis, every week. Every week. Their attitude was just go away, hush, if we ignore you, we don’t respond to you, you’ll shut up and go away,” Blair said.
Blair said the Independence School District told him that school district insurance wouldn’t cover the bills. He says the district did nothing to help him with the bills or help hold the parents of the bully accountable.
“They go on about their life,” Blair said. “I’m getting calls from collectors; my credit is being affected. And it’s just a very hard way to continue to exist to live.”
KCTV5 went to the school district for answers about its policy concerning students assaulted at school, by other students and who foots the bill when medical treatment is necessary.
A representative for Independence School District said she would look into it.
A few days later, Blair contacted KCTV5 with the news that the school district had called him and said the district’s insurance would now be covering the ER bill.
“If I hadn’t got in touch with you,” Blair told us, “I would’ve been another voice in the background with no assistance, suffering.”
For now, James is at a different school, and Blair says he’s doing well. He hopes his story prevents another parent from what he says has been an unnecessary struggle.
The Independence School District shared the following statement in response to KCTV5’s request for information concerning Blair’s son.
The Independence School District reached out to the parent, asking him to sign a release to allow us to share factual, detailed information about this situation. The parent refused to grant the District permission and was verbally aggressive and disrespectful when the request was made.
While the District cannot specifically address the false accusations about the District’s response because of student privacy protection, we want to be clear that the District takes all reports involving the safety and security of our students very seriously.
Missouri schools are not required to buy insurance or pay for medical expenses due to school related injuries. The District purchases a basic accident insurance policy to help parents who may not have insurance or need to supplement their family insurance. The policy covers students at school and school sports and activities.
If a student is injured at school and the school nurse refers the student for outside medical treatment, the nurse submits the information to the student accident insurance agency claims office.
If a school nurse does not refer a student for additional medical treatment and a parent seeks treatment on their own, the parent needs to make the school nurse aware, so they know to file the claim.
Insurance coverage policies vary between school districts.