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IPS responds to classroom ‘Fight Club’ allegations and lawsuit  

Following a lawsuit filed against School 87 regarding allegations of a ‘fight club,’ IPS board president, Angelia Moore, said the district will create a task force focused on student safety

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One by one, dozens of George Washington Carver Montessori IPS School 87 parents came to the podium to address district leaders at a board meeting on Thursday, April 25.  

Some laying out incidents that happened long before a video of a student beating another student in a classroom went viral.  

RELATED: IPS superintendent: video of student attack is ‘appalling and disturbing’

“My daughter was in Mr. Johnican’s classroom. I reported to the principal and the vice principal and the staff members at the school about my daughter constantly being bullied,” said Kiya Isom, one of those parents.  

“I never got a follow up email or phone call about any incidents. Last year, my daughter was pushed by another student on the playground and had to have surgery on her private parts.”  

The mother choked back tears at the podium while saying no one at School 87 called to check on her daughter.  

IPS School 87: Other incidents

Isom said last February, there was another incident of her daughter getting stabbed in the hand with a pencil.  

“That little boy that was in the video was the same little boy that bullied my daughter almost every day and nothing was done about it,” said Isom.  

Former School 87 teacher, Julious Johnican, is accused of orchestrating a “fight club” where he allegedly encouraged students to beat up a 7-year-old student who had disabilities and videotaped the incident.  

A viral video shows one boy seemingly beating the 7-year-old while he lay on the floor of the classroom crying and trying to protect himself.  

The 7-year-old boy’s mother filed a lawsuit April 16 in Marion County that names Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, School 87 Principal Mary Kapcoe and the child’s former teacher Julious Johnican. 

Other defendants include the district, the board of commissioners, the school’s assistant principal, a substitute teacher and a behavioral consultant.  

According to the lawsuit, weeks into the 2023-2024 school year, the 7-year-old began complaining to his mother about incidents at the school.  

The suit alleges that Johnican created “a reprehensible ‘fight club’” type of discipline within his classroom over a span of three months. He encouraged, instigated, and on at least one occasion recorded on his phone physical abuse of the 7-year-old by classmates.  

RELATED: Culinary cookoff celebrating family, fun and food

Lawsuit against the district and district leaders

The family’s attorneys said the video of the incident is believed to have been taken in September 2023. 

Despite the teacher’s disturbing video, school officials failed to involve police after learning of the allegations against Johnican.  

IPS allowed him to resign in November with his teaching license still active.  

An IMPD investigation is now currently underway into the allegations against the former teacher.  

The circulation of the video and awareness of the lawsuit sparked an outcry by IPS parents, prompting an online petition and demands for new leadership at School 87. 

Bullying statistics across the state

Statewide overall, the Indiana Department of Education reported 5,460 total incidents of bullying during the 2022-2023 school year across school systems.  

This number is up from the 5,103 total reported incidents of bullying during the 2021-2022 school year. 

During the height of the pandemic for the 2020-2021 school year, bullying declined 56% with 1,984 total incidents reported. This was due in part to at home instruction.  

Before the start of the pandemic in the U.S. for the 2019-2020 school year, there were 4,496 reported incidents of bullying.  

This shows an increase across the state for the last five years excluding the COVID years when many schools were closed.  

At a board meeting Tuesday, April 23, IPS board president Angelia Moore said the district will create a task force focused on student safety following the widespread circulation of that viral video.  

Task force focused on student safety

In a video released a day before the Thursday board meeting, Johnson said that the district would also have an external partner review its policies and procedures.  

“It’s appalling and disturbing,” Johnson said of the viral video. “When a parent sends their child to school, it is with the understanding and the expectation that school staff will do all they can to keep their child safe both physically and emotionally.”   

Moore said district leaders will work on this new taskforce and report back to parents in 30 days while continuing to share ways in which parents can get involved.  

District leaders listened to parents share their thoughts Thursday, with most concerns being a lack of communication from school leaders about their children.  

That, coupled with the safety of their children while at school, has left many feeling a lack of trust and care from district leadership.  

“It wasn’t easy to hear, but we will hear it and we will work to repair it together,” said Johnson.  

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.  

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