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Little sign of bullying, school chief says

– The boy and his parents came to her with claims that his classmates made gay slurs, physically hurt him, stole his pencils and spoke of his mother in an obscene way.

But when the principal of Most Precious Blood Catholic school investigated the alleged bullying, she rarely found any evidence to support the boy’s claims.

In fact, she testified in an Allen Superior courtroom Wednesday, the boy’s stories hardly matched those of the students around him at the time of such abuse at all.

“I was trying to figure out why the stories were so different,” said Alexandria Bergman, describing her investigations into the boy’s claims.

Bergman’s testimony came during the third day of a civil trial in which the boy’s family is seeking damages from the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese, claiming that school administrators turned a blind eye to bullying so severe that it caused the boy mental and physical anguish.

Also named in the suit are some of the boy’s classmates and their parents.

Bergman contested the family’s claims that she often ignored them or that she never looked into their complaints. On the contrary, she said she looked into complaints whenever the boy, his father or mother came to her.

Often, though, other students would tell her the boy was in fact causing trouble, or that what the boy described was blown out of proportion.

“I felt like there were elements of truth that were being embellished,” Bergman said of some of the boy’s claims.

In previous testimony, the boy – now a teen who attended Most Precious Blood as a sixth- and seventh-grader in 2008 and 2009 – said he was repeatedly pushed on stairs, battered, asked whether he was gay and harassed about his mother’s body parts and whether he had sex with her.

The boy, who has cerebral palsy and needs braces for his legs, came home with red marks on his body at times, he and his family previously testified.

Bergman, though, said several witnesses told her the boy practically instigated one fight with his alleged bullies and that only once did any witnesses hear someone ask him “if he liked boys.”

She testified to a seven-member jury that she sensed something else might be happening in the boy’s life.

“I felt that (the boy) was striving for attention from his parents and from the school,” Bergman said. “Things weren’t matching up. I was trying to find things to help him with all these disconnects.”

Bergman also said that when she tried to talk to the boy’s parents about the inconsistencies with the stories, they refused to listen to her or hear what she told them.

“They were very firm in that what (the boy) said is what happened,” Bergman said.

During the first days of the trial, the diocese’s lawyer, John Theisen, tore into the boy’s family about their recordkeeping and documentation regarding meetings with school administrators.

Wednesday, Sam Bolinger, an attorney for the family, used a similar tactic with Bergman.

“It’s good protocol to document such things, right?” Bolinger asked Bergman.

“Yes,” she admitted.

The trial continues today and could finish by Friday.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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