$4.2 Million School Bullying Settlement A Reminder of the Dangers of Violence Against Students
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on April 21st, 2012
A single punch to the stomach in a horrific case of school violence by a bully and the life of a 12-year-old boy was turned upside down back in May, 2006. Within two days, the punch caused a blood clot in a major artery, causing a blockage and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, according to a story by The Associated Press.
Now, almost six years later, the boy, Sawyer Rosenstein, and his family are receiving a $4.2 million settlement from a New Jersey school district which apparently failed to do enough to monitor and prevent a pattern of harassment by the bully, according to the story.
“The family’s lawsuit alleged school officials knew or should have known the boy’s attacker had violent tendencies and failed to comply with a state anti-bullying law,” according to the family’s attorney, the story reported. “The [bully] had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier, but the school kept no record of it or other attacks and the attacker was not subjected to escalating discipline, the suit said.”
Sawyer Rosenstein has even been emailing school officials to report the harassment, according to the story. “‘I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased,’ he wrote to his guidance counselor,” according to the story. “I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”
By reaching the settlement, the Ramsey Board of Education denied any wrongdoing in the case and said that its policies against bullying are “leading edge,” according to a statement.
Sawyer Rosenstein is now talking about the case publicly to increase awareness about the problem of bullying.
The family’s lawsuit alleged that the school board, administrators and others knew or should have known that Sawyer’s attacker had violent tendencies and was involved in punching incidents with others, according to a story on MSNBC.com. “What the school was doing was just indicative of what the schools do in these instances: they just have policies and don’t know how to enforce them,” the family’s lawyer told MSNBC.com. “You can have a written policy all you want, but if it is not put into effect and it’s not enforced effectively, you’ve got a policy in name only.”
School districts across the nation have experienced bullying incidents and the attacks continue to plague our society and harm our students. They must be dealt with and prevented so that our students can go to school daily without fear for their personal safety.
It is up to all of us to help make that happen.
One organization that is fighting bullying in our schools is the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, which was founded in 2006 and works to unite, engage and educate communities nationwide to address bullying through creative, relevant and interactive resources. PACER’s bullying prevention resources are designed to benefit all students, including students with disabilities, according to the group.
PACER offers digital-based resources for parents, schools, teens and youth, including:
- PACER.org/Bullying: This is the portal page for parents and educators to access bullying resources, which include educational toolkits, awareness toolkits, contest ideas, promotional products and more.
- PACERTeensAgainstBullying: Created by and for teens, this website is a place for middle and high school students to find ways to address bullying, to take action, to be heard, and to own an important social cause.
- PACERKidsAgainstBullying: A creative, innovative and educational website designed for elementary school students to learn about bullying prevention, engage in activities and be inspired to take action.
An illuminating and emotional film about the victims of bullying, “Bully,” was recently released by The Bully Project, an organization formed to fight bullying and work to establish systemic changes that will halt the practice, according to the group. The film is being lauded for its power and emotions as it portrays the innocent victims of school bullies. The film is being shown to students and their parents around the country.
A “Bully” Facebook page has been established where you can learn more about the film and find a local showing.
The Bully Project portrays a year in the life of America’s bullying crisis, according to the group.
“This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people in the U.S. experience,” according to the group’s Facebook page. The film follows five students and families over the course of a school year and confronts bullying’s most tragic outcomes, including the stories of two families who’ve lost children to suicide and a mother who waits to learn the fate of her 14 –year-old daughter who was incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus, according to the group.
The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal newspaper ran a powerful front-page anti-bullying editorial recently following the suicide of Kenneth Weishuhn, a local 14-year-old boy who was subjected to horrible bullying after he told friends that he was gay:
“Sadly, Kenneth’s story is far from unique. Boys and girls across Iowa and beyond are targeted every day. In this case sexual orientation appears to have played a role, but we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike. No sense can be made of these actions.
Now our community and region must face this stark reality: We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough. This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away.
In Kenneth’s case, the warnings were everywhere. We saw it happen in other communities, now it has hit home. Undoubtedly, it wasn’t the first life lost to bullying here, but we can strive to make it the last.”
The tragic life-altering cases of Sawyer Rosenstein and Kenneth Weishuhn should not be in vain. They should stand as a lesson to us all of the real dangers of bullying behavior and our responsibility as parents, school officials and community members to do something to stop such harassment and violence against innocent students.
No one deserves to be harassed in school or anywhere else.
If you or a student you love is being harassed by bullies in school, be sure you take every action possible to contact and communicate with school officials, school district officials, police and other law enforcement and social service agencies so that the problems can be confronted without violence.
School bullying should be unacceptable behavior in every school setting across our nation.
We need to confront it and stop it with all the power that we have as parents and community members.