Appeals court hears teen bullying case
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A panel of three judges on Wednesday heard arguments in a District Court of Appeals hearing regarding the attack of a middle school student off campus.
The panel gathered in a classroom full of lawyers and law students at Florida Coastal School of Law on the Southside.
The majority of the argument in Paris Cannon v. Melissia Thomas, on behalf of her daughter Aria Jewett (pictured below), was centered around the interpretation of a statute and how many acts of violence it takes to get an injunction against someone.
It comes after a judge banned Cannon from all Duval County schools earlier this year.
Investigators say Cannon slammed Jewett's head against a stone wall near their Oceanway Middle School campus in March. Jewett's mom said her daughter is still recovering.
"Still got some physical therapy and some balance rehabilitation left to do," Thomas said. "Besides that, I guess it's just going to take time."
Attorneys representing Cannon argue the statute clearly states two or more acts of "repeat violence" are necessary to obtain an injunction.
But Jewett's attorney, John Phillips, said the law is poorly written and could be interpreted to mean only one act of violence is needed.
"Like the kid in Lakeland, like the kid who the bullying statute was named after, we don't need to subject children to three and four and five acts before they get an injunction so that they feel they're victims and they kill themselves," Phillips said.
Lawyers also spoke about Judge Henry Davis' decision to ban Cannon from the public school system, which her attorneys say he did not have the authority to do.
"I represent some children in prison. They get an education," Cannon's attorney, Bryan Gowdy, said. "So the idea that someone who had a fight and did something bad should never get a public education is wrong, and we hope that the court will agree with us today."
Judges have as much time as they need to make a decision on the appeal.
"I think the court was pretty clear that even if they're going to allow an injunction for one act of violence, they're not going to allow this injunction to stand, an injunction that bans a child from school," Gowdy said.
Phillips said although the judge's banning to all Duval County schools was more relief than he and his client asked for, "We need to be able to protect our children before multiple acts of violence occur."
Both Cannon and Jewett have since moved out of state.
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