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Ex-student cheerleader files lawsuit alleging 'toxic and abusive treatment' within Danville schools

Lawsuit filed on July 26
Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-01 15:38:50-04

DANVILLE, Ind.— A former student cheerleader has filed a lawsuit against the Danville Community School Corporation and two cheerleading coaches alleging the school district failed to address repeated bullying.

The ex-student, identified as M.S., filed the lawsuit in Hendricks Superior Court on July 26 against the Danville Community School Corporation, Danville Community High School head cheerleading coach Breanna Galliher, and Brooklyn Klug, DCHS assistant cheerleading coach.

The court authorized the former student to file the lawsuit under a pseudonym, which is a fictitious name.

The former cheerleader alleges she experienced “harassing, toxic and abusive treatment” by DCHS cheerleading coaches and cheerleaders while she was a member of the junior varsity cheerleading team.

In April 2022, M.S. was the victim of “repeated cyberbullying” by two female varsity cheerleaders and she notified a relative, according to the lawsuit.

The relative notified Coach Galliher, but Galliher failed to report or investigate the online bullying allegations when they were first reported, the lawsuit alleged.

DCHS’s student handbook says allegations of bullying reported to a teacher or counselor should be forwarded to the school administration for further investigation.

In July 2022, M.S. reported directly to Coach Galliher that she was experiencing bullying from other cheerleaders, according to the lawsuit.

M.S. said the bullying had occurred for over a year, and “she didn’t know if she wanted to be alive because of the constant bullying,” read the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges DCHS did an investigation but did not contact M.S. nor her parents for an interview or follow-up, which is in direct violation of the DCHS Bullying Policy.

“The parents of the bully and the targeted student(s) shall be notified on a regular, periodic basis of the progress and the findings of the investigation and of any remedial action that has been taken,” read the policy.

M.S.’s complaint also alleges other cheerleaders were also bullied by fellow teammates and the coaches themselves during the 2022-2023 competition season and that Coaches Galliher and Klug fostered a “bullying culture.”

WRTV Investigates spoke with Kathleen DeLaney, attorney for M.S.

She said her client left Danville schools and cheerleading as a result of the bullying.

“It's been a very difficult, emotional experience for her,” said DeLaney. “The biggest problem I think is the school district's failure to respond and handle appropriately when they're reported. In this situation, the bullying isn't just from other students but she's also experienced bullying from adult employees of the school district-- which is obviously a whole other level of improper behavior.”

The lawsuit also alleged coaches tried to find out who complained about them after they berated the cheerleaders in January 2023 after a game performance.

“Coaches Galliher and Klug pulled the team into a circle and instructed them to raise their hands, in front of their peers, ‘if you thought that what we said last week was just good coaching,’” read the lawsuit.

The only cheerleader who did not raise her hand was suspended from the team within 24 hours in retaliation for speaking up, in an effort to discourage other team members from doing the same, the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit alleges Coach Galliher posted a veiled threat to M.S. on the Danville Cheer Instagram account, which is controlled by the coaches.

Superintendent Dr. Tracey Shafter and the school board received an anonymous email about the alleged bullying on January 23, 2023.

Attorney Kathleen DeLaney said the school district seemed more concerned with finding out who reported the bullying than conducting an adequate investigation.

The principal questioned M.S. without her parent’s permission about her mental health, the lawsuit alleged.

“This seemed to be a targeted effort to determine which student complained about bullying,” read the lawsuit.

M.S. had to leave the team at the recommendation of her doctor due to her mental health.

At the end-of-year banquet, the coaches refused to acknowledge her participation as a JV cheerleader and instead made comments implying she was a “quitter” and “gave up.”

“The coaches have fostered a bullying dynamic between the JV and Varsity teams, and created an atmosphere that puts the young team members’ own physical and mental health and safety at risk,” read the lawsuit.

DeLaney hopes the lawsuit prompts the district to take action.

“We hope to get the school district's attention to get them to do what they're supposed to do— follow the law, follow the policies, and put an end to bullying-particularly by their own staff,” said DeLaney. “That's just incomprehensible and inexcusable."

WRTV Investigates emailed and called the Danville Community School Corporation for a response.

"It is our practice not to comment on pending litigation," said Abby England, Communications Coordinator for Danville Community School Corporation, in an email to WRTV.

We are also trying to reach the cheerleading coaches named in the lawsuit.