Court document: CCSD says deleted video at center of lawsuit ‘impossible to recover’

Updated: Nov. 16, 2018 at 7:48 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Court documents released on Friday show the Charleston County School District deleted video at the center of a lawsuit and said getting it back would be “impossible.”

A judge ruled earlier last month that the Charleston County School District was “grossly negligent” in failing to preserve video that allegedly showed attacks on a student despite Freedom of Information Act requests to produce them.

Charleston attorneys Mark Peper and David Aylor filed a lawsuit against the district after a woman said her child was attacked and injured at Liberty Hill Academy in multiple incidents in December 2017 and January 2018 and was unable to obtain videos believed to have shown the attacks.

“It was a very short amount of time because he was getting harassed literally from day one. He was getting bullied until I took him out,” Cristell Wooten said of her son’s time at the school.

“[Other students would] walk by and hit him, say all kinds of mean nasty things. Every day. Every single day,” Wooten said. “On the bus I would make him facetime me, so I could see what was going on, and they would take the phone and throw it across the bus. Many times, I watched my son get hit.”

The lawsuit against CCSD states that not only did the school district fail to respond to multiple FOIA requests that sought the videos, but that the videos were allowed to be deleted in violation of the district’s own retention policy.

The suit stated attorneys for the mother notified the district on Jan. 23, 2018 that they would be requesting copies of the video and notified the district to preserve that video.

The suit also states that on Sept. 20, 2018 a district representative said “too much time” had elapsed between the request and the date, adding, “there is no video for this matter.”

The judge ruled against CCSD on the matter, stating the district had an obligation to save those videos and turn them over. He ordered district officials to try to recover the deleted videos.

In documents released on Friday, it said the video wouldn’t be recovered.

One of the documents released said the vendor that designed and installed the surveillance server at Liberty Hill was contacted in regard to recovering the video that would show the alleged attack.

The company said once a hard drive is written over multiple times, it is impossible to recover that data through forensics.

The document also stated, “The Charleston County School District does now have the ability to reproduce the video from the above-referenced dates from Liberty Hill Academy.”

Surveillance video from a bus ride to Liberty Hill was also requested. Documents show that only one copy of video was available. According to court documents, the rest of the video is gone, “CCSD nor Durham School Services has the ability to reproduce bus video from the above-referenced dates.”

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