- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) - A woman contends in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas that a school principal filed a false child abuse complaint in retaliation for her complaining that her daughter was being bullied at a diocesan school.

Melissa Schroeder of Shawnee also named Sacred Heart Catholic Church and its school principal, Maureen Engen, in a lawsuit filed in May in Johnson County District Court. She contends her daughter began suffering migraine headaches and other health issues in April 2014 because of the bullying at the school and her requests for help were ignored by school officials. Instead, Schroeder contends, Engen made a hotline call to the Kansas Department of Children and Families alleging that Schroeder was abusing and neglecting her daughter. The agency’s subsequent investigation found nothing to substantiate the allegations, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1AIDmla ).

“What happened to her was appalling,” said Schroeder’s attorney, Sarah Brown. “This is about a mom trying to get the bullying to stop and then having the church retaliate against her.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for defamation, invasion of privacy and malicious prosecution.

A spokeswoman for the defendants provided a prepared statement to The Associated Press on Monday after confirming the archdiocese had received the lawsuit.

“The principals of Catholic schools in the archdiocese take the responsibility for safeguarding children very seriously and make every effort to follow the laws regarding mandated reporting of any suspected abuse,” the statement said. “While this case is in litigation, the archdiocese will not comment on the allegations made in the suit.”

Schroeder contends in the lawsuit that she reported the bullying to her daughter’s teacher and Engen in April and May 2014 and was assured they were handling the problem. She said her daughter told the school nurse about the problem no fewer than eight times.

Engen was given letters from her doctor and an allergist saying the bullying could be causing significant psychological distress and the girl did not need further stress, according to the lawsuit.

The school did nothing about the bullying by mid-May, and Engen said that month she was unaware of the problem, the lawsuit said.

A diocesan priest confirmed that the decision to call the state agency was made by Engen, school superintendent Kathy O’Hara and a nun, according to the lawsuit.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann and O’Hara replied to letters Schroeder sent them in July 2014 that “it would not be prudent to respond to their concerns until the legal investigation was over,” according to the lawsuit.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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