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Glasgow school district fires back after coroner inquest into teen's death

Dairy Queen manager charged with manslaughter

Glasgow school district fires back...

FAYETTE, Mo. - UPDATE 2/3: The Glasgow School District's attorney spoke with ABC17 News on Friday afternoon about the district's position on the coroner's inquest and called it "half-baked."

"The coroner decided he was going to whack the district and he cherry picked the evidence," said Tom Mickes who added that he sat in on the entire hearing.

District officials including the superintendent were not allowed to stay in the courtroom after they testified. The superintendent told ABC17 News this morning that testifiers were ushered into a room outside the courtroom to wait until the day's proceedings were over.

Mickes alleges those who testified about bullying were talking about instances that happened years prior. He also mentioned a witness testified she mentioned Suttner's bullying in a board meeting but he claims this was allegedly six to eight years ago.

"I wish I could say with our policies and our training and procedures, we could prevent any kid from being bulled," he said. "That's not possible."

Among other policies, which Mickes said were not mentioned at the hearing, the district utilizes a form that students or teachers can fill out to report suspected bullying and it is then investigated, Mickes said.

Suttner never filled out the form, nor did anyone who noticed his bullying.

Mickes also said Suttner had worked with a special-education teacher since he was 3 and never told her about any bullying. He also didn't show signs of bullying: his grades were average and he never missed school. 

The district said Friday that it is sending out a personal letter to parents to explain the situation.

"Our parents need to feel that their teachers care about their kids and are looking out for them," Mickes said. "We've got to tell parents what we do."

The district said in a statement Thursday that "the loss of any young person, regardless of cause is a tragedy. The tragedy has brought great sadness to the Glasgow community, the student's family, district students, parents and staff."

Glasgow residents said Friday that the school should be held responsible for the teen's death and that bullying has been going unchecked in the district for years.

The coroner, Frank Flaspohler, did not return several phone calls made by ABC17 News Friday.

UPDATE 2/2: It has been confirmed by the Coroner's Inquest that the Glasgow District and its staff had followed bullying procedures and policies, but were negligent because unreported bullying occurred. The Glasgow District was not allowed to call witnesses, offer any evidence, cross examine witnesses, offer objections to hearsay and irrelevant testimony or defend its staff in any way.

According to an official information release from the district, "the Coroner made statements about the District and its staff that he knows to be false" in what the district considers an attempt to justify his actions.

In an Associated Press story, the Coroner said that "...the District initially wasn't cooperative after the death, making a subpoena to the Inquest a way to get them to discuss the matter." 

ORIGINAL STORY: A woman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with a teen's suicide in December.

A coroner's inquest in Howard County recommended prosecutors charge Harley Branham for the death of Kenneth Suttner. Branham worked as Suttner's manager at the Dairy Queen in Fayette, and allegedly harassed him at work. The six-person jury said she was the "principal" in the harassment that happened both at work and at school. Suttner died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on December 21, 2016.

Special prosecutor April Wilson filed one count of second-degree involuntary manslaughter Wednesday. Wilson was appointed to handle the case after Howard County Prosecutor Stephen Murrell cited a "conflict."

Wilson told ABC 17 News she often handled manslaughter cases that resulted from car crashes involving drunk driving, but never a suicide. She said the inquest decision was clear in that jurors felt Branham and Dairy Queen were responsible for Suttner's death.

An arraignment date has not been set for Branham, nor does she have a listed attorney.


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