School District To Pay $75,000 To Settle Pupil's Bullying Claims
That court also held that the standard for peer-to-peer harassment at school is the same as for workplace harassment under Lehmann v. Toys 'R' Us, 132 N.J. 587 (1993). Under that standard, a school is liable if it has actual knowledge of the harassment and does not promptly and effectively act to stop it.
The Toms River district was ordered to pay $50,000 in damages plus $28,175 in counsel fees to the former student, plus $10,000 to the state.
The Old Bridge and Toms River cases were based on conduct that took place before enactment of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act in 2011.
A prior version of the law didn't require the same level of investigation, reporting and accountability that the current law does, says Rubin.
At present, any bullying claim must be investigated promptly, and a written report submitted to the superintendent and school board, regardless of whether bullying was found, Rubin says.
The current statute helps to detect ongoing patterns of behavior quickly that might have previously gone unnoticed when incidents were treated in isolation, Rubin says.
"With all the reporting responsibilities of staff, multiple levels of internal review, appeal rights of parents, and proactive preventive measures now built into the law, it's highly unlikely that a longstanding pattern of harassment like this could exist," he adds.
The harassment of H.D. occurred at school, on the school bus and online, and included name-calling, derogatory comments and physical contact.
In one such incident, two students grabbed H.D. in the locker room and stuffed papers down his pants.
And a retired principal at Jonas Salk acknowledged to state investigators that he once counseled H.D. to consider transferring to another school, and said it would be understandable if the boy retaliated against his tormentors physically.