Anti-bullying campaigns often look great on paper and a rally in support of a school’s bullied “underclass” of students can feel very positive — but they don’t really do anything on a practical level to stop the actual bullies that kids face on a daily basis unless the administration steps in and gets proactive.
Even the best-case scenarios for a bullied student are grim — it can take years of counseling to overcome the effects of being bullied as a child. Occasionally, bullied children end up feeling so isolated and hopeless that they actually kill themselves.
When a school fails to protect a child from bullies and the child commits suicide, should the school be held responsible?
That’s the question that is going to come before an Ohio jury in a wrongful death claim that’s being pursued by the family of an 8-year-old boy who hung himself after he could no longer take the humiliating treatment at school from his bullies.
It isn’t easy to hold a school liable for something like this — but knowledge of the bullying and harassment and the administration’s failure to step in and try to stop it are two factors that allow parents to press their case against a school.
The parents of the deceased child say that school officials were indifferent about what was happening in the school’s halls and bathrooms. Their son wasn’t the only victim — but let a toxic environment build up in the school that essentially left the bullies free to act.
In this case, the boy killed himself two days after he had been beaten unconscious in the bathroom by bullies. The staff contends that the child claimed he had simply fallen. The parents claim the staff knew what was going on but found the problem easier to ignore than to try to handle.
This case is hardly the first of its kind, although it seems to be the first in Ohio. If successful, it could both open a door for other parents to seek compensation and force school administrations to take a more active role against bullies — instead of just giving lip service to stopping it.
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