According to a number of recent articles on the subject, lawsuits—personal injury or otherwise—that are brought as a result of school bullying and that name schools as defendants are on the rise. These cases, easier to bring than to win, generally assert that the school districts in question did not address received complaints or inadequately protected students in some other way.
HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) defines bullying as follows:
“[U]nwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”
This increased trend in bullying lawsuits with school defendants comes as a result of a number of changing factors: more public and in-school awareness of bullying and its causes, new legal and professional standards surrounding bullying, and more experts in the legal community involved in research and scholarship in this area. And though most of these lawsuits stem from more “traditional” types of bullying, even victims of cyberbullying are bringing more and more claims against perpetrators and the schools that foster them.
Victims bring claims against school districts, particular school personnel, and particular district personnel. As recently as this past December, for example, a federal judge in New York permitted a bullying lawsuit to go forward, naming several specific school officials as defendants. Moreover, even in states where schools and school employees are legally immune from direct suit, victims occasionally bring racial or sexual harassment claims in federal court, getting around state-based immunities.
One mother who brought a suit in federal court against a district, where her son was beaten while the perpetrators watched and videotaped, noted about the school in question, “They have the bully policy. It looks great, on paper, why aren’t they following it?”