A South Florida jury has awarded more than $5.2 million to a boy who sued a charter school claiming he was bullied and sexually assaulted by an older student; the bullying started when the child was age 7. The jury decided that the school was negligent in failing to stop the assaults. In many cases in Georgia, however, schools claim sovereign (i.e. State) immunity when a child is hurt at the school.
In fact, the leading case in Georgia decided by the Georgia Supreme Court clearly absolved the schools from liability if a student was injured at school. Bullying, however, seems to be changing the landscape as discussed in my Spring, 2014 newsletter Legal Matters.
Bullying is not a new issue. Bullying has been going on since the 1800’s and has been litigated in the Georgia Courts as early as 1871. It has only been recently that we are taking a more serious approach to this crime against a person.
In Georgia, the code that covers actions by juveniles is governed by the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Title 15. For adults, this type of behavior could fall into many legal crimes against a person including, but not limited to, simple assault, aggravated assault, simple battery, aggravated battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), stalking, and even rise to the level of homicide.
If a person is injured when bullied, then it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately in this matter for personal injuries or death that may have resulted from the attack. This is unacceptable and there are many legal remedies such as compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, temporary and/or permanent disability, humiliation, scarring on any part of the body, loss of use of a limb, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, wrongful death, and punitive damages which are not always available in other types of personal injury cases.
As we are now even losing teenagers to suicide due to bullying in person and cyber bullying, we need to take action in these cases. The law needs to set a clear precedent that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. With our continued educational budget cut backs and over crowding in our schools, we, as parents, need to keep close communication with our children and watch for the signs of bullying and discuss bullying with our children.
If these actions continue, then parents can consider homeschooling and now free public education on line which are wonderful alternatives for a child or young adult being subjected to abuse at school. To learn more go to Stop Bullying.Gov and let’s send a message that these actions will not be tolerated; ever. As more cases come before Georgia courts and courts in other jurisdictions, I believe we will see a shift in liability not only to the person or people who are committing these acts, but also to the authorities in the schools who are not taking enough or the appropriate type of action in the school to prevent bullying.
We need to educate ourselves, our students, our children, our administrators, our teachers, and our schools about the devastating effects of the act of bullying and the long term potential damage to an individual who has been subjected to this type of behavior. We can work together to make our schools a safer place for our children so our children can get to the important business of learning and not having to protect themselves from those who need to be removed from these environments and who can not behave appropriately in society. Let’s send a message that bullying will not be tolerated under any circumstances!