Can You Sue a School for Bullying?
It is natural to want to protect our kids so if they were bullied at school you might be wondering if you can sue the school for bullying. Traditionally it has been very difficult to successfully sue a school or school district as they generally have “sovereign immunity.” Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that states that the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution.
In March 2014, a groundbreaking case may have changed the game on suing for bullying. A Superior Court judge in New Jersey ruled that two Hunterdon County school districts may file suit against students who torment their peers. Some legal precedent has been set that parents may be held legally liable when their children bully, taunt, tease or physically harass their classmates.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying includes many wrongs committed by one or more persons against another person or group. The actual act can take on many forms including sexual harassment, teasing, excluding, name calling, physically pushing, hitting or attacking, threatening, hazing, damaging or stealing belongings, or demanding money.
What to do if Your Child is Bullied at School
If your child is sexually harassed or bullied by another student, you should act right away; waiting for the students to work it out is not advised. Setup a meeting with any teachers or recess attendants who may have witnessed the bullying; ensure the school principal is also present. You will have the most success if you have documented the incidents carefully including times, places, description of the incidents, witnesses, and pictures of any physical bullying. If you are aware that other students are being bullied by the same person, then encourage their parents to speak to school officials as well. School representatives are more likely to respond immediately if they have multiple complaints.
If you don’t get a favorable response at your meeting or see any concrete action taken within a couple days afterward, write a letter to the principal and school district superintendent. The letter should outline the facts and demand an immediate response to the problem. In the last decade, many public schools have adopted zero tolerance policies against bullying after nationally-publicized school bullying incidents and subsequent suicides. There is increased awareness and sensitivity to bullying today compared with previous decades.
Notify the Police
If your child was assaulted physically, including being hit, pushed, slapped, or tripped; call the police and file a police report right away. The police can investigate and check to see if the bully has a juvenile record and if not, a record can be started. Additionally, the police can help you file a restraining or anti-harassment order to keep the school bullies a safe distance from your child.
If your child has been physically or sexually assaulted by another student, talk with a local personal injury lawyer right away.
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