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Former Student Sues St. Charles East H.S. Over Hazing, Bullying

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ST. CHARLES, Ill. (STMW) – A former St. Charles East High School student is suing the district and several staffers, alleging she was bullied, hazed and harassed by members of her drill team and that coaches and district officials did nothing to stop it.

The former student alleges that the continued bullying led to severe emotional distress that required outpatient hospitalization and “extensive psychiatric treatment.”

Daniela Kapusta, now 19, filed the lawsuit last week in Kane County Court, naming the district, school board, six drill team coaches, two athletic directors and two principals of St. Charles East High as defendants. She is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

On Thursday, St. Charles District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney declined to comment because the district had yet to see the lawsuit. A lawyer for Kapusta could not be reached immediately by phone.

Kapusta, who is now a university student, alleges that the bullying began in 2009, when she started attending St. Charles East High, and continued through 2013.

Shortly after Kapusta made the St. Charles East High drill team, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition she reported to her coaches.

Around that time, her teammates started calling her names like “crazy” and ostracizing her, the lawsuit said. She was later forced to participate in an “initiation” ritual wearing an embarrassing costume and “do(ing) humiliating actions in front of others,” according to court documents.

In November 2010, Kapusta started to become depressed and had thoughts of suicide. Three of her coaches “threatened to impose consequences if (she) missed practice to seek medical help,” the lawsuit states.

Kapusta was told to ignore her teammates and that “girls will be girls.”

The lawsuit alleges that Kapusta’s coaches and district officials “retaliated” against her when she reported the bullying and that she had been slapped by a teammate.

Kapusta’s coaches failed to videotape practices to accommodate her disability, the lawsuit states, and her coaches repeatedly excluded her from communications about practices and meetings and from participating in team events and competitions.

Coaches and district officials also failed to provide Kapusta with a full uniform, the lawsuit states, and imposed rules on Kapusta that were different from those her teammates were made to follow.

In May 2012, Kapusta was hospitalized for three weeks in an outpatient program due to thoughts of suicide, severe depression, anxiety and self-harm, the lawsuit states.

Her anxiety and depression were made worse by the bullying, according to the lawsuit.

According to news reports, Kapusta went on to speak out about her bullying and depression while she was still a student at St. Charles East High. She served on the board of the school’s Hope Club, which focuses on suicide prevention.

She also participated in a charity fashion show for an organization dedicated to suicide prevention, which led to her being featured on Vogue Italia’s website and taking on part-time modeling work.

A conference on the case is scheduled for July 10.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)