A former Gloucester High School student was awarded $5 million in damages last week after a circuit court jury found a GHS assistant administrator and two other persons liable for injuries the student sustained during a confrontation at school.
John Conrad, counsel for defendant Travis Burns, the GHS administrator involved, said he would seek to have the verdict set aside. "This is an important case for the future of school administrators and teachers," said Conrad.
The injurious incident occurred on Dec. 14, 2006 following what witnesses described as two to three weeks of threatening online discourse regarding an obscure teen social situation. The students involved, plaintiff Gregory J. Gagnon and defendant James S. Newsome Jr., did not know each other personally but had at least one or two non-violent confrontations prior to Dec. 14.
On Dec. 14, GHS student Shannon Diaz was in trouble for a school prank and was seated in a school administration office with assistant principal Burns. It was then that he told Burns his friend Gagnon "was going to get into something today, an altercation," Diaz said in his deposition. Burns said he would take care of it by alerting school security.
Approximately 90 minutes later, Gagnon and Newsome met in the lunchroom and exchanged words that culminated with Newsome delivering one staggering punch to Gagnon’s face. It was not clear whether the blow caused Gagnon to hit his head on a nearby brick pillar, but he sustained a broken nose, a concussion and mild to moderate brain injury, according to medical experts. Gagnon subsequently sued Burns, Newsome and Newsome’s sister for $9.3 million.