A Dalton, Georgia, family is suing a faith-based school, alleging administrators ignored repeated complaints after the family found a notebook in their daughter's bag with notes from a fellow female student asking if she could kill their daughter, according to the complaint.
Mollie and Jason Surratt are asking for more than $3,000 in damages from Christian Heritage School and an unspecified amount to cover legal fees and future medical costs for their daughter, according to a complaint filed earlier this year with the Whitfield County Superior Court.
"We wanted for her to have a faith-based education," Mollie Surratt said in a telephone interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
In journal drawings made by a fellow third-grader, Mollie Surratt found "graphic violent pictures" and a kill list, as well as writings about the girls' sadness and disturbing writings of sexual nature about her daughter, the complaint said.
When Mollie Surratt showed the girls' teacher the writings and the drawings, the teacher thought the girl could be a victim of abuse in her own home, according to the complaint, but no report was made to law enforcement.
One of the drawings was that of a female stick figure with the name of their daughter above it with the question, "Can I kill her?" and an arrow pointing at the drawing, according to the complaint.
The school, however, said it has not violated any rules.
"Defendants did not breach any contractual obligations," the school's response to the lawsuit said.
The Surratts claim Christian Heritage School failed to address repeated complaints of bullying toward their daughter -- whose name is being withheld because she's a minor -- by another female student when both girls were in the third grade.
The Surratts' daughter began attending Christian Heritage School -- which serves grades kindergarten through 12 -- in kindergarten. In the middle of the third grade, Mollie Surratt said, she began noticing changes in her daughter's behavior.
"I started to notice her becoming withdrawn, and I started to notice her crying and not wanting to go to school, begging me not to go to school," Surratt said by phone. "I kept crying and asking, 'What's happening? Why are you not wanting to go to school?' My gut told me that she was in some sort of distress."
According to the Surratts' complaint filed by Reagan King, the family's attorney, their daughter began to beg to not attend school, a behavior that wasn't typical, according to Mollie Surratt.
Then the family found a journal in their daughter's backpack that contained letters from another female student detailing her obsession with their daughter, according to the complaint.
"I think we were both just kind of in complete shock based on the age," Jason Surratt said in the telephone interview. "How the school handled it, kind of felt like we were almost in a movie or something."
The Surratts' daughter continued to be bullied, harassed and even threatened by the student, according to the complaint.
"My child feels like she did something wrong," Mollie Surratt said, "because she ultimately opened up to me about what was going on."
Harrison Kent, a spokesperson for Christian Heritage School, which has 560 students, according to privateschoolreview.com, did not have a comment and referred the Times Free Press to the school's attorney, who declined to comment.
"No comment on any pending litigation," attorney Russell Britt with Hall Booth Smith told the Times Free Press.
In its response filed in court, Christian Heritage School denied the claim the Surratts emailed their daughter's teacher about a TikTok video a third student made. In the video, which allegedly contained sexual comments toward their daughter, the third-grader targeted their daughter wearing suggestive outfits, while performing suggestive dances and cursing, according to the lawsuit.
The Surratts are asking for $3,680.39 in damages and an additional unspecified amount to cover legal fees and future medical costs for the treatment of their daughter as a result of the alleged negligence by school administrators, according to the complaint. In a response, the school denied the request, instead asking that the Surratts pay the school for attorney expenses.
The Surratts have since enrolled their daughter in public school. Mollie Surratt said she will not stop fighting for her daughter's right to speak up.
"This is very emotional and difficult for us to talk about, and we don't talk about it often," Surratt said. "And I don't want my child and other little girls and other young women to carry shame into their teenage years, and (into) being an adult, about coming forward, and speaking their truth."