Bullying Lawsuits are on the Rise

Bullying has garnered a lot of attention lately, rightfully so. What is alarming to me is the lack of discussing how adults bully children. Our society is totally comfortable discussing kids bullying kids. Schools are willing to pay for staff training on bullying. Restorative practices have become a hot topic and are being taught all over. Don't get me wrong, this is all good stuff. What is not good is the lack of knowledge and unwillingness to educate school staff on child sexual abuse prevention which is a form of bullying in the worst way. Why are we afraid to question the behavior of adults but not children. Why are we so quick to see how kids bullying kids is so damaging that we are willing to put a ton of money and energy into finding solutions but not when it's adults bullying kids. Our kids' voices matter and whether they are being bullied by another kid or an adult we need to listen. Schools need to listen. The authorities need to listen.

From CBS News:

It's a parent's worst nightmare, their child being teased, even hurt in school.

One in four kids experiences bullying in the classroom.

A growing number of parents are filing civil lawsuits against school districts for not keeping their kids safe, and many end up in court.

“It was horrendous, it was gut wrenching,” mother Tracy Samon said.

Samon says the day she found out her daughter was being bullied in school broke her heart.

“She would be hysterical crying,” Samon said.

Samon said her daughter's classmates would call her names and taunt her. She said her daughter's finger was slammed in a locker.

“No child should ever feel in fear of when they go to school,” Samon said.

Samon said the school did not keep her daughter safe, even after she told them about the bullying on several occasions in person and by email.

“It got to a point where we had to pursue this legally, because they were not taking any action,” Samon said.

And she is not alone. The National School Board Association says there is anecdotal evidence that bullying lawsuits are on the rise nationwide.

While there's no hard data for the number of lawsuits, an advocacy group called Public Justice tracked 128 settled cases since 1996 nationwide. And most often, school districts prevail.

“Bullying cases are very challenging, because we don’t bring a case against the bully, we bring a case before the school for failing to prevent the bullying from occurring,” Samon said.

In another case, attorney Craig Goldenfarb won a civil lawsuit against the Palm Beach County School District, in part because cell phone video was available.

Samon says unless the school is aware of the intention or the bullying before-hand, there's no liability or fault on the school.

The Florida Department of Education has a very particular definition of bullying - covering power, harm and harassment.

“So we usually have to prove there’s something the school could have done, either before the event or during the event, that would have made a difference,” Samon said.

The National Center for Education Statistics finds about 20 percent of kids get bullied at school.

But Florida's most recent data show our area schools reported only 330 bullying incidents.

That's less than one percent.

Samon says bullying is under reported. She hopes her story inspires other parents to speak up.

“You’ve got to stand up for your child, be their advocate. Don’t be afraid by the politics or afraid of what your peers will say,” Samon said.

Samon's case has not gone to court yet.