A 12-year-old girl who was bullied out of her Manhattan public school could end up having her private school tuition paid for by the city of New York, the New York Post reports.
A New York judge has ruled that the student, who has a learning disability, may have been deprived of her educational rights during the 2007-08 school year, when she was subject to constant torment by her classmates. According to the Post, fellow students laughed when she raised her hand and refused to touch pens or paper she had handled first.
P.S. 6 Principal Lauren Fontana allegedly did nothing to combat the bullying, and refused to discuss the repeated incidents with the girl’s parents, who transferred her to the state-approved Summit School in Queens before moving to another school district in the state.
The parents have demanded that the New York City Education Department pay them $40,000 for the year their daughter spent at Summit.
According to the Post, the DOE reimburses about $235 million annually in private school tuition to parents who prove public schools did not adequately serve their children with disabilities.
This provision, however, has never included bullying, so Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein’s ruling could set an expensive precedent for the city.
Weinstein will decide on the payment after he hears from a DOE hearing officer whether bullying occurred and what — if anything — was done about it.
Parry Aftab, a lawyer and national bullying expert, told the Post that the ruling could have far-reaching implications beyond special education.
“Schools can be liable for not addressing bullying or cyber bullying for all students, and parents can sue for money damages,” she said.
Last week, Christina T. Smith, a 16-year-old former student at Hahnville High School in St. Charles, La., says was forced to drop out of school after constant bullying became life-threatening.
Before she left the school, Smith was reportedly on track to get a free college education. Now she’s working toward her GED at a local community college.
In Atlanta, 14-year-old Alex Boston is suing two of her classmates for libel after they bullied her on Facebook. When she first reported the cyberbullying to police and school officials, she was told there was not much they could do because the harassment occurred off campus. However, many states are considering or passing cyberbullying laws in response to high-profile cases such as this.
Elsewhere, the parents of an 11-year-old boy with autism are suing the Leander school district in Texas, claiming the district did nothing to protect their son from repeated bullying and alleged sexual abuse by his peers.