School Liability Lawyer
What is Bullying?
Below we list three general categories that encompass the ways that bullying displays itself at elementary schools and high schools. Any type of bullying, no matter which of the three categories it appears in, can be traumatizing for a young child. At such an impressionable age, parents must be careful what types of people they expose their kids to. If any of these categories of bullying leads to a serious accident or death, reach out to a school liability lawyer right away.
This can include hitting, kicking, punching, spitting, throwing things, breaking property, and stealing. For many students at school, physical bullying is the most intimidating. Physical bullying can cause hesitation for students heading down the hallway to their locker. Like any other form of bullying, physical bullying can leave a lasting emotional impact on a child’s psyche. The issue here is less so with the injuries. While those can occur, and if they do occur they should be dealt with, we are even more so concerned with the emotional trauma that stems from physical bullying.
While clearly it will not have the same physical effect as will physical bullying, verbal bullying can be even more detrimental emotionally. Verbal bullying can include name-calling, which can have an impact lasting decades of one’s life. Verbal bullying can also include general teasing, taunting, spreading rumors, and making physical threats. From the perspective of emotional trauma, verbal bullying can be the one to look out for as most detrimental to a child’s psyche. While physical bullying can lead to bruises that last a week, and of course those can carry lasting impressions, verbal bullying is designed to attack insecurities and can cause a victim to develop lasting traumatic stress.
Cyberbullying in School Liability Cases
Cyberbullying is something only the younger generations are familiar with. Unfortunately, it is far easier to bully a child or even adult over the internet. The lack of humanization that occurs online when you are talking to a screen name, phone number, Instagram handle, etc., drains what little empathy was already there, away. Especially when kids involve websites that allow for anonymity, cyberbullying can be particularly vicious.
Cyberbullying reaches the liability of the schools when the schools are made aware of what is going on. School liability lawyers advise that you put the school on notice as soon as you can. However, whether conduct taking place outside of school has been a point of contention for the United States Supreme Court in recent years. On the one hand, this conduct may be taking place at home. Moreover, there is a First Amendment element that has a role in this. This makes cyberbullying cases increasingly tricky. But for as much as they are tricky, they can be debilitating to children who feel the whole world is against them, even when it is no more than a couple kids cloaked in anonymity.
Cases of Bullying at Schools Leading to Settlement
Fortunately, there is a recent increase in the number of parents taking action on their deceased children’s behalves. This section highlights some of the most unfortunate cases our nation has seen over the last several years. The purpose of this is to highlight the availability of legal remedies for the loss of a child. While this is in no way intended to act as a substitute for the loss of a child, it is a legal way to hold those responsible, legally and monetarily liable.
Case Study One
The first case study is that of Gabriel Taye. Gabriel was an eight-year-old boy who wore neckties to school each day. One day, he got knocked down by another classmate, where he laid there unconscious for seven minutes. The next day, a student tried to flush down the toilet his favorite water bottle. A few hours later, he ended his own life. Gabriel’s family eventually came to a $3 million settlement with Cincinnati Public Schools. Because this did not end in a judgment, nor did it occur in Washington, D.C. or Maryland, it is not binding or persuasive law. Thus, it does not set a legal precedent. However, it does demonstrate a growing trend towards morality by schools in owning their part in a tragedy.
Other Case Studies
Without going into the particulars of each case, you will see that Gabriel’s case is not an outlier. A school system in Utah recently agreed to settlement for $2 million for a similar case. A school system in Connecticut agreed to settlement for $5 million. An additional school system agreed to settlement for $9.1 million in New Jersey. The greatest share of students who take their own lives are in the age group of 11-14. Our experienced school liability lawyers are prepared to negotiate on your behalf.
Liability of Schools
In many cases, students leave notes with their last words to family and friends. In many of these notes, they refer to the devastating words that traumatize these children from their classmates. The families claim that the schools have a duty to keep their children safe. And to a certain degree, this is correct. However, schools do not always want to take responsibility. In fact, there are countless instances of schools stating that bullying is not the cause of suicide. Rather, some schools state that it is a combination of some bullying along with other factors taking place, many from within the victim. While there may be other factors at play, there is no question that bullying causes a devastating and contributing effect to a student’s suicide.
The job of a school liability lawyer is to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a school breached its duty owed to the student and child. One clear way to prove a breach of duty, two of the four elements necessary for a negligence claim, is by showing that the school is on notice of the bullying. If we can prove that the school was notified of the misconduct and failed to act, or the conduct by the student did not stop due to the school’s punishments which may have been not substantial enough, there may be liability.
Further Liability for Schools
In general, common carriers owe a very high degree of care towards their guests. In other words, common carriers are liable for slight negligence. The typical example of a common carrier is an airplane or a ferry. While a school may not be a common carrier under the classic definition, it demonstrates a comparison that we apply different standards to different defendants. In the case of a public school, where a younger student is legally required to attend, there is a higher duty placed on the defendant. This is similar to the duty on a nightclub or bar. In general, this is a higher duty than placed on a driver in a car accident, truck accident, or motorcycle accident.
In addition to the requirement to attend, these are younger children. Thus, they require more supervision and care than would most of the general population. So, the legal duty by a public school, or even a private school, will be higher than in similar settings. This is the overarching argument our school liability lawyers make in these cases. Of course, the main argument ultimately depends on the facts of your case.
Common Types of Bullying Injuries in a School Liability Case
The cases we discuss above center around loss of life due to bullying. However, the number of possible injuries that can result from the different categories of bullying is limitless. Below, we list a some of the damages that our school liability lawyers sue for on behalf of our clients.
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Broken teeth
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating in school
- Lower grades
- Exclusion from social groups
- Rumors (defamation)
What Causes Bullying?
The reality is that there is never a justification for bullying. But, there is always a reason. Bullies in school sometimes feel out of control in their own lives and powerless. So, feeling powerful by bullying someone else is one way to get back power the only way they can. Another unfortunate reality is that some bullies feel out of place. To feel in place or fit in with a group, they think that bullying will make them seem cool. The reality is that it is not cool. It can lead to life long traumas and, as this page highlights, early deaths.
School Liability Lawyers: How to Prevent Bullying
Now that we have a better understanding of what causes bullying, we can work towards preventing it. This starts at home. Every parent should teach their child empathy and compassion. But of course, teachers spend more time with these younger kids than do the parents while the children are awake. So, much of this responsibility does fall on the school system. This will help your child understand that bullying is hurtful and is wrong. Second, set a good example. Like before, this starts at home. However, this also falls on the shoulders of teachers. Especially in the more social setting of school grounds, teachers have an excellent opportunity to set an example in front of the children by being empathetic to the children, rather than impatient.
What to do if Your Child Commits Suicide Due to Bullying at School
Contact the Police
If your child passes away due to suicide because of bullying at school, the first thing to do is contact the police. A good school liability lawyer can help with this. By filing a formal report, the police will start an investigation which will assist you in collecting evidence for your civil case. They may also file criminal charges against the bullies responsible for your child’s death. Of course, the criminal component is independent from our civil claim against the school. However, we may be able to use the evidence the police collect by requesting a copy of the police report.
Losing a child is an unimaginable feeling for most Americans. It is an indescribable pain that the law cannot quantify with money. Like many things in the law, the legal system cannot possibly rectify such a wrong. Criminal charges for the person responsible for the loss of your child is a start, but it does not come close to filling the void. A civil claim for monetary damages will not be much different. We strongly recommend talking to someone you trust. Whether that person is a family member, a friend, or a therapist, use the opportunity to try to process your emotions.
It is important to take care of yourself during such a difficult time. This is a pain that will go away anytime soon. So, developing solid coping mechanisms will be important for years to come. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and find a way to exercise once a day. It is also important to avoid drugs or alcohol. A good school liability lawyer can advise you on best steps.
Contact a School Liability Lawyer Right Away
A school liability lawyer can help you with your civil claim. Our attorneys can get you on a track towards justice. While it is not an easy road, it is important to hold the school responsible so that something like this is not allowed to happen again. Contact our office today for a free case consultation.