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Court filing calls for lawsuit against school officials to be dropped
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Court filing calls for lawsuit against school officials to be dropped

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A lawyer for Martinsville Schools Superintendent Zebedee Talley Jr. and Martinsville High School Principal Ajamu “Aji” Dixon states in a court filing that a lawsuit against them should be dismissed because of legal insufficiency and because they have sovereign immunity.

Myajah Dillard, a sophomore last year at the school, in July sued Talley, Dixon and Shane McPeek, a member of the Martinsville Police Department who served as the resource officer for the high school. Dillard alleges they failed to protect her from a threat that led to an assault and left her hospitalized.

An Oct. 3 “memorandum of law” signed by Martha White Medley – of the firm Daniel, Medley & Kirby in Martinsville, which represents Dixon and Talley – states: “The actions of Dixon and Talley as school administrators, under the circumstances alleged in this case, involved the exercise of judgment and discretion for which Virginia courts recognize the protection of the doctrine of sovereign immunity.”

The lawsuit alleges that it was on Sept. 1, 2018, that a group of fellow MHS students threatened to “beat up” Myajah Dillard via a social media video. The girl’s family notified officials with the school division and the school, the lawsuit alleges, yet she was not adequately protected from the assault that ultimately happened.

According to Medley’s memorandum, the lawsuit itself alleges a number of actions that Talley and Dixon took. It says that on Sept. 3, Labor Day, Dillard’s mother Latasha Long spoke in person with Donna Dillard (then vice chair and now chair of the Martinsville School Board) and told her of the alleged threats. Donna Dillard, in Long’s presence, telephoned Talley and informed him of the situation. That evening, Talley spoke with LaTasha Long and was given information concerning the alleged threats.

According to the memorandum, on the morning of Sept, 4, Dixon met with Dante and LaTasha Long (Myajah’s parents). Dixon assured the Longs he understood the seriousness of the matter and promised to speak with the students accused of threatening Myajah and to contact their parents. He expressed his intentions to take action. On Sept. 5, Dixon telephoned LaTasha Long and told her that he had indeed spoken with the students and at least one parent.

Medley’s memorandum states that in light of the protection afforded to Dixon and Talley by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, Myajah Dillard “is required to plead and prove gross negligence …, which the facts as alleged in this case do not reasonably permit.”

The memorandum says Virginia law makes it clear that Talley and Dixon are not the “insurers of a child’s safety.”

It also states that the lawsuit is frivolous and without legal basis and goes on to request that it be dismissed and for Dixon and Talley to be awarded attorneys’ fees and other relief the court may deem just.

Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

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