Bullying claims have made their way from hallways and classrooms to courtrooms. In late October, a Sullivan County, New York jury found a school district negligent in its handling of a bullying situation that included a student’s parents.
Plaintiffs Christine Motta and Anthony Motta Sr. first filed the lawsuit in 2013, accusing the district’s administration of negligent supervision when their son, Anthony Motta Jr., was severely bullied from 2011 to 2013 while he attended the Eldred School District in upstate New York. According to court papers, the harassment caused Motta Jr. to run into disciplinary problems and he suffered academically.
The jury sided with the family, who claimed the administration failed to enforce anti-bullying policies and violated the state’s Dignity of all Students Act, which requires all districts to have anti-bullying policies. The jury awarded $300,000 for past damages, $640,000 for future damages and $30,000 for each of the parents.
JenniElena Rubino and Jean-Paul Le Du of the Rubino Law Firm represented the plaintiffs. Rubino told the New York Law Journal that she felt that the jury’s verdict was intended to “send a message to the community.”
“You can’t turn a blind eye to the bullying that goes on,” she said. Rubino said that Motta endured anti-gay slurs from fellow students, regardless of the fact that he is heterosexual. Court papers state that he also suffered physical abuse at the hands of classmates, such as being urinated upon.
The statement released by the district said, “Our staff are attentive, watchful, and supportive … The District provides training to staff, and students participate in numerous programs designed to prevent bullying and promote civility and acceptance.”
The district is expected to appeal the decision.