The Bryan school district and former Bryan superintendent Tommy Wallis are included in a wrongful death lawsuit recently filed in Jefferson County.
The Kirbyville school district — where Wallis has served as superintendent since April 2017 — is the first defendant listed in the lawsuit. In addition to Wallis and BISD, other defendants are the Region 5 Education Service Center and 10 individuals, including Kirbyville school board members and district employees. The lawsuit relates to the death of Dennis Reeves, who was principal at Kirbyville High School when he took his own life in the parking lot of the school on May 23, 2017.
Bryan School Board President Mark McCall released a written statement Tuesday evening stating, “The Bryan Independent School District Board of Trustees denies all allegations of wrongdoing referenced in the lawsuit that was recently reported on in the local media.”
Reeves’ widow, Tammy, their two children and Reeves’ parents are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 28.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants committed 29 “wrongful, unlawful and tortuous acts,” including negligence, gross negligence, breach of contract, wrongful termination, retaliation, libel, slander, abuse of power, intentional and negligent inflictions of emotional distress and violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The listed plaintiffs are also suing for 25 items of damages, including “emotional and mental pain and anguish suffered by Dennis Reeves prior to his death,” “past and future mental anguish” and “past and future pecuniary loss” suffered by each of the plaintiffs individually, economic losses and lost benefits.
The lawsuit alleges the Bryan school district shares responsibility for Reeves’ death, stating, “In the face of misdeed upon misdeed, BISD wanted [needed] Wallis gone. BISD tried to pass its problem elsewhere and, in doing so, became a part of the problem.”
The lawsuit continues by stating Bryan “cut a deal” with Wallis when he left the school district, including a letter of recommendation, “providing ‘public cover’ for whoever may hire him.”
Kirbyville school board’s vetting process and March 2017 decision to hire Wallis is called into question, alleging the unanimous vote was agreed upon before the official vote and was decided by those who “ran the show.”
It states there were abundant “red flags and warnings” about Wallis when he was selected among the 30 applicants as the lone finalist for the superintendent position, but those were “ignored, hidden and kept from public disclosure.”
Wallis is described in the lawsuit as “an intimidator, a bully and a harasser” and alleges his purpose as superintendent was as an “intimidator, bully and in-house spy” for the Kirbyville school board.
Reeves died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the parking lot of Kirbyville High School following a meeting with Wallis and the assistant superintendent regarding an alleged affair between Reeves and another Kirbyville employee.
The lawsuit states Reeves typed a resignation letter before leaving the meeting, but a handwriting expert has determined the signature is not that of Reeves.
“The citizens of Kirbyville deserve it,” attorney Chip Ferguson said in a statement issued to the Beaumont Enterprise. “The teachers and students of KCISD deserve it. And the family of Dennis Reeves have earned it.”
Sara Leon, an attorney representing the Kirbyville school district, told the newspaper she had yet to see the lawsuit, but said the district would “aggressively defend itself.” Wallis told the newspaper Monday night he had yet to see the lawsuit.
“I have not been provided a copy of the lawsuit personally,” Leon told the Enterprise. “A story containing the document was forwarded to me and I think that indicates a lot, that the lawsuit was given to the media before the party the claims are made against.”