BROOKHAVEN, Ga. — Local parents say they had no choice but to sue a school after they said administration ignored their child's safety and went so far as rewarding a student accused of bullying with a "citizenship" award.
Twelve-year-old Sophia is a student at the Annunciation Day School and said she was a victim of bullying.
"I was experiencing a lot of social isolation and exclusion by the students," Sophia described. "It made me feel, like, worthless. Like I didn't matter. Like I was being thrown away and disregarded."
Between February and March of last year, Sophia, one of four students in the class, detailed to her parents at least 17 instances where she felt bullied.
Sandra Karampales, Sophia's mom, told 11Alive she tried to solve the situation by getting the girls in the class together, but nothing seemed to work.
"She didn't want to go to school. She was upset and very sad most of the time," Sandra said.
So she involved the school.
A report by an investigating committee at Annunciation Day School listed four meetings between Sophia's mom and the principal. At one meeting, the Karampales were told the student would be placed on a behavior contract.
But at the end of the school year, the alleged bully who'd just been placed on that behavior contract was awarded the 6th Grade Citizenship Award. The award is given to students who "exemplify superior honor and discipline within the classroom environment."
The Karampales said it sent them over the edge.
"I thought I misheard her (the student's) name, because I was trying to process how a student weeks earlier had been put into a behavior contract," Sandra said.
During their investigation, the committee "found no evidence of any incidents of alleged bullying" of Sophia based on the Georgia code definition.
As for the award, the investigation found "no other students qualified" and they felt they had to give it to someone. But the school admitted the behavior contract was never implemented.
But after feeling like they were not being heard, the Karampales filed a civil lawsuit against the school for, among other things, breach of contract.
"It breaks my heart, because I felt like I had no recourse, no power to change the situation," Sandra explained.
The Karampales family said they never meant for their case to end up in court, but decided it could be a teachable moment for their 12-year-old about standing up for yourself. They're also asking for the courtesy of a professional explanation and an apology. 11Alive's Natisha Lance reached out to the school, who responded with "no comment."
The Karampales are suing for tuition costs and legal fees, which, so far, is thousands of dollars. The case has been moved up to Superior Court.