I received this information from a lawyer about a trial on bullying issues that was successfully won. Instead of rewriting it, I am providing that information from the lawyer as it was sent to me so that you can read and contact him yourself if interested. ~Alan Eisenberg
I am an attorney in Michigan who, along with Terry Heiss, successfully sued a small school district for allowing bullying. The school unsuccessfully tried a band- aid approach to bullying by addressing the victim as needing” special education” rather than dealing with the cause of the problem, over a matter of years.
BEFORE trial, The federal Court of Appeals reinstated our case, stating that repeating ineffective responses to bullying was tantamount to willful disregard. One of the judges referred to it as “Sock-a-mole” and the case was sent back to the trial court where a jury awarded $800,000 damages.
Later, the trial judge reversed the verdict, analyzing it from the motivation and intent of the bullies rather than the victim, saying it was a “status thing” rather than sexual harassment. We had tried the case as sexual harassment based upon the victim not meeting the “gender role” of being a jock; the community and school made heroes of high schools football stars. But the school district’s insurer settled the case before the judge vacated the verdict so no additional appeal was necessary.
The point was made- and, it cost the school district and its insurance pool a lot of money, time and grief with their loss of the appeal and a 3 week long trial. That, more than empathy for the victim, may be helpful to motivate the schools to be more diligent in the future. Publicity of large verdicts may be an effective and practical weapon to get the schools to start doing something before the legislature messes things up with refusing to adopt anti-bullying laws, The republican legislatures are likely to make it even harder to sue the schools for indulgent behavior toward bullies..
Surprising to me, there has been very little notoriety about the verdict- for it to have its full, potential effect.
The Title IX federal law applies only to sexual harassment as unlawful bullying. If schools are going to discipline a victim for defending him or herself, perhaps another theory could be used, but governmental immunity makes it very difficult to hold the governmental entity responsible without a law to hold their feet to the fire. Of course the best tool will be enlarging the scope of Title IX and state legislation embracing anti-bullying laws. Right now, the Republicans are trying to kill anti-bullying legislation in Michigan. They must favor Social Darwinism- but no doubt are going to wonder why Johnnie brought a loaded gun to school and will think the “fix” is to demand harsh punishment of victims who resort to self help.
~Richard H. Winslow, an attorney in Michigan (Email: Rhwins1060@aol.com)