District ordered to pay student's family

CARSON CITY -- The Nevada Supreme Court ruled on a 7-0 vote Thursday that the Clark County School District must pay $21,570 to the family of a student who suffered injuries in a pushing incident with a teacher in 2005.

Justices upheld a lower court decision awarding the funds to the family of Eric Webb, who was injured in an incident with teacher Roger Phillips at Mannion Middle School.

The student originally had been awarded $27,270 by District Judge Troy Peyton for damages, medical and psychological expenses, but the Supreme Court reduced that award by $5,700.

That money was to cover the boy's expenses in seeing a psychologist, David Hopper. Justices said Hopper is not a licensed psychologist in Nevada and under state law cannot be paid for his treatment of the boy.

In the decision, justices said "substantial evidence supports the district court's finding that Phillips' contact with Webb was excessive and unreasonable." They also said the school district and Phillips did not dispute whether the boy really needed the $6,500 in physical therapy treatments and medical expenses he incurred after the incident.

In addition, they ruled Phillips could not use a section in the federal No Child Behind law to exempt himself from liability.

The case grew out of an March 2005 incident in which students were waiting to enter the locked middle school in Clark County. At the time, Phillips was walking out of the door.

As he was leaving, students began pushing to enter the school and he explained to them they were not yet permitted inside.

But some students held onto the door and others placed their feet at the bottom of the door to prevent Phillips from closing it.

Phillips then was pushed from behind, according to the decision. When he turned around, Phillips said he saw Webb holding his friend's backpack and pushing the friend into him. He said he then placed his hand on Webb's chest and said: "Don't do that! You're going to hurt somebody? That's dangerous. It's unacceptable."

The teacher said he removed Webb's hand from the backpack.

But the boy contended the teacher pushed on his chest and choked him "for what felt like 30 seconds."

Phillips is still a teacher at Mannion.

Contact Las Vegas Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.