The lawyer for a former student of Martinsville High School who is suing the superintendent of Martinsville City Public Schools and MHS’ principal and then-resource officer is asking the court to consider holding the city’s school board in contempt.
A motion filed in Martinsville Circuit Court by attorney Glen Koontz of Berryville asks the court to compel the school board to comply with a subpoena to produce documents and to require Chair Donna Dillard to show cause why the school board should not be held in contempt.
Koontz represents Myajah Dillard (whose first name is spelled “Mayajah” in the new motion), who alleges in the lawsuit filed in July that Superintendent Zeb Talley, MHS Principal Ajamu “Aji” Dixon and Shane McPeek, a member of the Martinsville Police Department who served as the resource officer for the high school, didn’t protect her from being beaten by another student after an attack had been threatened.
The suit alleges Dillard, a sophomore at Martinsville High School last year, was threatened by a group of female students and later beaten by one of them in early September 2018. She is the daughter of Dante and LaTasha Long.
In the new filing, Koontz alleges that the school board has not complied with a subpoena issued Aug. 12 and served on the school board Aug. 14 to produce documents on or before Sept. 5. He says that the school board did not comply with the subpoena and “simply ignored” it.
“The school board’s blatant disregard for the rule of law demonstrates contempt for this court, its authority and its procedures,” Koontz writes in the motion. “And the school board’s contemptuous behavior is to the detriment of Miss Dillard in the prosecution of her cause.”
The motion requests that the court require Donna Dillard to appear at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 22, to bring all documents responsive to the subpoena “and show cause why the school board should not be held in contempt of court for its blatant disregard of the lawfully issued and served subpoena.”
The motion also requests the court to require the school board to pay to Myajah Dillard the attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the preparation and prosecution of the motion.
Dillard’s lawsuit is seeking at least $1.25 million in compensatory and punitive damages plus legal fees and court costs.
In responding to the lawsuit, the law firm representing Talley and Dixon – Daniel, Medley & Kirby of Martinsville – and the law firm representing McPeek – Royer Law Firm of Roanoke – both argued that Dillard has failed to prove that her charges meet the definition of the court and in fact should be pursued as a criminal matter with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. In a filing signed by Martha White Medley of Daniel, Medley & Kirby, Dixon and Talley say that they have sovereign immunity in the matter and that the case should be dismissed.
When asked for comment Monday about Koontz’ new motion, Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday, who also represents the school board, responded, “My comments will be delivered in a courtroom, not the news media.”
The lawsuit alleges that at about 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2018, Dillard received a Snapchat social media video sent by fellow MHS student KM. The video showed KM, SH, JR and another girl (T), all MHS students, “issuing vulgar, profane and violent threats against Myajah. Specifically, the students threatened to ‘beat up’ Myajah when all returned to school following the Labor Day holiday.”
The lawsuit alleges that Dillard’s family notified school officials about the threat but that those officials they did not adequately protect her and that she ultimately was “brutally attacked and beaten” by SH at Martinsville High School on Sept. 6, 2018, the same morning that KM appeared in Henry County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on charge(s) relating to KM’s allegedly having sent the Snapchat threat of violence to Dillard.
The suit says Dillard was taken to the hospital emergency room and treated for facial and scalp contusions and abrasions, that her face was grotesquely swollen as a result of the beating and that she had two black eyes and other bruises.
The suit also says that “she was absent from school for a period of three weeks … recuperating from her injuries. She suffered sleeplessness, severe headaches, nervousness, anxiety, and generally withdrew from human interaction. She lost interest in her normal activities. She had difficulty eating, and also suffered from a lack of appetite. She cried regularly, without any apparent reason other than her despair and humiliation suffered at the hands of her attacker.”
She ultimately transferred to Magna Vista High School.
The Martinsville Bulletin is using Dillard’s name because the lawsuit names her as plaintiff. The others are juveniles who are accused and are being identified only with initials.
Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.