Bully At The Top Of The Stairs

***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***

Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

Kids are mean. It’s a fact. I’m talking about bullies. Something has to be done to stop bullying. But what can be done?

Should schools deal with bullying when it occurs on school grounds? Should school be held liable when injuries result from bullying on school grounds?

BLOG POST #150: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case involving an elementary school bully.

Young Bully

The victim began being bullied in first grade. The bullying reached a dangerous level when the boy was in fourth grade.

To address budget cuts, many schools have reduced nonessential positions such as hall monitors. When schools have hall monitors, does that lower the incidents of bullying? It’s impossible to know. There weren’t hall monitors at the school in this case.

Once A Bully, Always A Bully?

The fourth grader was approaching the top of the staircase leading to lower level classes when his tormentor pushed him. He tumbled to the bottom.

Because the boy’s and his mother’s previous complaints saw no change in the bullying, the boy didn’t tell the school administration what happened. He told his teacher his arms and legs felt tingly and numb. By the end of the day, he needed assistance walking. His teacher didn’t report his condition to the school nurse or the boy’s parents.

Wrong Diagnosis

The medical center his parent’s took him to diagnosed him with a sprained ankle and sent him home with pain meds.

He stayed home the next day. And then the day after that when the boy couldn’t move his arms or legs, his parent’s took him back to the medical center. Transferred to a hospital it was determined he had suffered an injury to his spinal column and spinal cord. He was permanently paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.

Family vs. Big Brother

The boy’s family sued the city, school district, the boy’s teacher, and school principal. His family’s medical debt continues to compound and nears one million dollars. The family said the school was negligent in failing to investigate and act after they’d complained numerous times about the bullying.

In a court brief, the family’s attorney wrote, “At the heart of this matter is a schoolchild’s right to learn in an environment free of peer bullying.”

State Lower Court judges ruled the school had immunity from the lawsuit. State Superior and Appeal Court judges dismissed the case. The state’s Tort Claims Act protects public agencies from financial liability for injuries caused by a third party when the public agency was not the ‘original cause’ that lead to the harm.

In the decision, the judge wrote, “While elementary school workers should have done more to protect [student], they are exempt from liability by law.”

Lemonade From Lemons

Since his injury, the boy has regained use of his arms but remains a paraplegic.

The victim’s family settled with bully’s family. Settlement amount is unknown.

Now an adult, the victim is taking his fight to the legislators in his state to change the Tort Claims Act. His attorney is helping him find a sponsor for the bill.

Worth Mentioning: Have you ever wondered what type of adult, bullies become? In this case, the bully went on to be arrested twice when he was 19-years-old.

  • First arrest: Domestic violence.
  • Second arrest: Driving without a license.

What do you think about this case? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools. Your relevant comments are always welcome on the Research Blog.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!

-Robin

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