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Court awards bullied student $800,000

 
Posted: March 6, 2010BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER 

 

In what experts say could be a landmark decision, a Michigan school district has been ordered to pay $800,000 this week to a student who claimed the school did not do enough to protect him from years of bullying, some sexually tinged.

 

This week’s jury verdict against Hudson Area Schools puts districts on notice that it’s not enough to stop a student from bullying another. There needs to be a concerted effort to stop systemic bullying, too.

 

Essentially, the federal court ruling says schools can be held responsible for what students do, if there is a pattern of harassment or if they don’t do enough to provide a safe environment.

 

“This is going to have implications across the nation,” said Glenn Stutzky, a Michigan State University instructor and an expert on bullying.

 

The district’s attorney, however, says the verdict puts schools in the tricky position of being held liable for student behavior.

 

The district plans to appeal.

 

“You’re never going to completely stop kids from being mean to kids,” said Timothy Mullins of Giamarco, Mullins and Horton of Troy.

 

The case

 

It started with name-calling in middle school and escalated as Dane Patterson entered high school. Some of the harassment was bullying, such as being shoved into lockers.

 

Other harassment was decidedly sexual in nature. He was called sexual insults, his locker and notebook were defaced with similar names, and worse. He and his parents say they reported the abuse, and yet it continued. Finally, in 10th grade, he was taunted in a locker room by a naked student rubbing against him.

 

That was the last straw for the Patterson family. In 2005, they sued Hudson Area Schools under Title IX, the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, using the sexually tinged bullying as the basis for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

 

This week a jury in U.S. District Court told the school district to pay $800,000 in damages to Patterson, now 19. Anti-bullying proponents say the case will send a message to all school districts that they are responsible for sexual harassment and, by extension, bullying.

 

For the Pattersons, however, the verdict is much simpler. It’s vindication.

 

“I can’t even put into words the pain and suffering that I went through for years,” Dane Patterson said. “It’s something that I would not want anyone else to go through.”

 

While Patterson said he feels vindicated and is trying to move forward, his mother can’t help but look back on their ordeal.

 

“I don’t know how you get back eight years,” Dena Patterson said. She said her son is so emotionally damaged by his experiences, he can’t even go away to college and live in a dorm with other students. “We said it was worth standing up. We don’t want another student, another parent to endure what we have seen.”

 

Read More …  http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100306/NEWS06/3060306/1318/Bullied-student-awarded-800000&template=fullarticle

 

Family of autistic boy filed a discrimination lawsuit against Bainbridge School District, citing sexual harassment

 

2010-03-09 05:58:02 (GMT) (JusticeNewsFlash.com – Civil Rights – Discrimination Law, Justice News Flash)

 

Legal news for Washington discrimination attorneys. Autistic boy endured harassment and sexual harassment while at school, in which the school never corrected.

 

A Bainbridge High School autistic boy endured sexual harassment while at school, promoting a discrimination lawsuit.

 

Bainbridge, WA—A lawsuit has been filed by the family of a former Bainbridge High School student who suffered from autism, which alleges the school district allowed discriminatory acts against the student. The discrimination lawsuit was filed on February 12, 2010 in the Kitsap County Superior Court, as reported by the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

 

The plaintiffs, Jay and Jan Webster, claim that their son, who was 15 at the time and suffers from autism, endured harassment and sexual harassment over 75 times by four fellow students at Bainbridge High School. The harassment reportedly occurred between September 2006 and January 2007. The lawsuit contends that the boy routinely endured “malicious harassment, bullying, sexual assault and indecent exposure’… due to his disability, and that the district ignored the abuse and systematically failed to take any action.” Four students reportedly exposed themselves to the victim and they made contact with him with their genitalia. After the family contacted the school district on four separate occasions, in which no corrective measures were taken, the bullying then began to take a new form in “cyber bullying.” The cyber bullying went as far as students posting demeaning photos on MySpace of the boy, in which his parents contacted the high school principal, but nothing was done to address the issue.

 

The four students who sexually assaulted the victim were later arrested after Jan Webster was granted a sexual assault protective order by the Kitsap County Superior Court, which sparked a criminal investigation. Three of the students plead guilty in juvenile court, and had their charges reduce to indecent exposure; the fourth student went to trial in May 2007, in which he was found guilty of one count of malicious harassment and two counts of indecent exposure.

 

The lawsuit is seeking “special damages, including those resulting from medical and psychological treatments, as well as general damages, which include physical, emotional and emotional injury as a result of the harassment and abuse.”

 

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for Washington discrimination lawyers.

 

Source:  http://www.justicenewsflash.com/2010/03/09/family-autistic-boy-filed-discrimination-lawsuit-bainbridge-school-district-citing-sexual-harassment_201003093607.html

Keeping All Students Safe Act Passes House

 

Every child should be safe and protected while at school but an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year found “hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death” as a result of misuses of restraint and seclusion in public and private schools, with many of these interventions used disproportionately on children with disabilities.

 

By a vote of 262-153, the House passed the Keeping All Students Safe Act (HR 4247) [March 3]. This bipartisan bill establishes, for the first time, federal minimum safety standards in schools, preventing harmful restraint and seclusion. Unlike in hospitals and other facilities that receive federal funding, there are no federal laws that address how and when restraint or seclusion can be used in schools and state regulations and oversight vary greatly and have often failed to protect children.

“This bipartisan bill establishes, for the first time, federal minimum safety standards in schools, preventing harmful restraint and seclusion.

Click here for more information on Keeping All Students Safe Act Passes House.

Click here to see how your state representative voted on HR 4247.

Click here to read Testimony Before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives from United States Government Accountability Office from May 19, 2009.



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