Student Receives $300,000 Award for Bullying . . . by a Teacher
Although it can be upsetting when one's child is the victim of bullying, the problem is far more serious when the bully is one's teacher. The parents of a 14-year-old special-needs student in Ohio were recently awarded a judgment in a civil lawsuit of $300,000 because their daughter was bullied by her teacher in the classroom.
While lawsuits seeking damages for the mental and sometimes physical injury inflicted by bullying behavior is becoming more prevalent, most parents trust that teachers charged with the supervision and instruction of their children will not be the ones that bully and verbally abuse their children. This civil court judgment reflects a growing concern about protecting children from teachers who abuse their role and violate the trust parents place in them.
The teacher and teacher’s assistant in the special-needs class repeatedly berated the 14-year-old girl including saying things like, “Are you that damn dumb?” as well as calling her “lazy” and “dumb.” The teenage girl’s special-needs status only made the relentless verbal assaults more offensive. The teacher and assistant also told the girl that it was no wonder that no one liked her and she had no friends. They even made fun of her appearance asking her if she was going to do anything to get rid of her belly. As a form of punishment, they would make her use a treadmill in class. The ongoing verbal abuse and humiliation was a recurring pattern that occurred over a prolonged period.
When the girl’s parents first learned of the abuse, they presumed that the bullying behavior was being perpetrated by other students. Once the parents figured out that it was the teacher and teacher's aide who were bullying their daughter, they made repeated attempts to alert administrators at the school of the problem. The parents were effectively told that there was no basis to the girl’s claim and that they were on the verge of slander against the teacher and teacher's aide so that they should drop the matter altogether.
Eventually the parents sent the girl to school with a tape recorder and for one full week recorded the ongoing verbal abuse and bullying by both the teacher and the teacher's aide. In one particularly inappropriate incident, the teacher berated the student telling her that she did not even need to look at the girl’s test because the teacher was sure the girl failed without even looking at her test. She told the special needs student, “I don't need your test to grade. You failed it.”
The girl eventually became so traumatized she stopped wanting to go to school entirely. The investigation by the principal amounted to speaking with the teacher and teacher's aide with no consequences and no improvement. When the extent of the abusive behavior became clear from the recording, the teacher's assistant was terminated and the teacher was forced to take an anti-bullying class.
The judgment in this case reflects the willingness of courts to impose civil liability on teachers whose verbal abuse and mistreatment of students rises to such a level that it inflicts significant emotional distress that may even manifest itself with physical symptoms. It is always tragic when a child is the victim of any form of abuse whether it is verbal abuse, physical abuse or other forms of taunting and bullying. If your child has suffered severe bullying whether at the hands of a classmate, teacher or administrator at school, our experienced Georgia personal injury attorneys may be able to help you seek compensation for your child’s mistreatment.
To read about Montlick & Associates' extensive efforts to help stop bullying as the Founding Sponsor of a national anti-bullying organization, and to learn what you can do if your child is the victim of bullying click here.
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