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Can You Sue a School District if Your Child is Bullied?

by onJanuary 21, 2020

A recent case in Cincinnati has brought up an interesting question. The case itself, however, is quite tragic. An 8-year-old boy took his own life after enduring chronic bullying at Carson Elementary School. Students found the boy lying on the bathroom floor. Security cameras show them poking and prodding him to get him to move. A police officer who reviewed the tape said that one student was acting in a menacing manner toward another. This same boy is seen on tape pulling the 8-year-old to the ground by his hand. School officials told the parents that their son had fainted. Now, their parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district. Can they win?

There are several elements to this case that will need to be sorted out by the courts. Here we will take a look at some of the key hurdles facing the parents as they fight to hold the school district accountable.

Sovereign Immunity

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.10(A) directly addresses how personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are handled by the courts. An individual has two years to file a claim against the government and noneconomic damages (which are commonly quite high in a wrongful death action) are capped at $250,000.

In addition, there are limitations on what kinds of claims can be brought against the government. This looks to figure into the aforementioned case as the school district claims that they have no responsibility to prevent violence between students.

The School District’s Case

The school district claims that they have no legal responsibility to prevent violence between students. If violence occurs, then the school district cannot be held liable.

Essentially, the parents are arguing that this is a premises liability lawsuit on a theory of negligent security. They will claim that the school district fostered an environment that was hostile to their child and the result of that was the taking of his own life. 

Thus far, a circuit court judge has refused to dismiss the parents’ lawsuit, prompting an appeal. If the case is allowed to move forward, the question of what the school administrators and teachers knew prior to the boy’s suicide will be quite important.

If a patron walks into a bar and is assaulted by another patron, the bar can be held liable under negligent security statutes. The bar has a duty of care to ensure that all of their patrons are safe and if they had reason to believe that they might not be safe (ie: something happened in the neighborhood or at the bar beforehand), then the bar would be responsible. However, school districts are held to a lower standard than bars. 

Talk to an Ohio Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured, call the Ohio personal injury attorneys at Lafferty, Gallagher, & Scott for a free case evaluation. We can help.

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