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Can a School Be Held Liable for Bullying Under New York Law?


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9/29/2010
Jonathan Cooper
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In a September 22 article in the Baltimore Sun, it was reported that parents of a middle school student who was repeatedly bullied - despite his pleas for help from the school - which resulted in his suffering (allegedly) severe post-traumatic disorder, have now sued the school for their damages, and for violation of his constitutional rights.

The question is, would this case have any chance for success under New York law?

While I am somewhat skeptical of the Due Process and constitutional claims, I think that a New York court would at least allow a jury to determine whether the student's purported post-traumatic stress disorder is 1) real, rather than manufactured (the indication in the article that the plaintiff has moved on to a different school and is now doing much better seems to undercut any claim that the harm he suffered was severe or permanent); and, 2) assuming that the injury was real, whether the school's alleged unresponsiveness was a substantial factor in causing the psychological injury.

And the reason why I think the Court would allow these claims to be heard by a jury rather than dismiss them before trial is relatively straightforward: since there seems to be a fair amount of credible evidence that the school knew, or should have known, about the bullying, yet did little or nothing to stop it, the plaintiff has already cleared the most hurdle to proving a school negligence case: notice. Having met that burden, the remaining issues are typically reserved for the factfinder (i.e., jury).

Category: School Negligence / Personal Injury

Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer

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