GREEN, Ohio– The Green Local School District has agreed to end a federal bullying lawsuit with a settlement of $500,000.
The suit was first filed in 2011, according to court documents, which claim a female student was relentlessly harassed daily for years by classmates.
The document cites as specific examples:
“Students regularly said she would “rot in Hell” because she did not believe in Jesus Christ; she was regularly called a “dirty Jew” or “Hitler;”
“Several times she was knocked into lockers while walking through the hallways of school.”
“She was tripped, shoved, hit, kicked, had her books knocked out of her hands on a regular basis.”
“In September, 2007, (the student) was stabbed in the leg with a pencil during class. (She) had to be transported to an urgent-care center, where the tip of the pencil was removed from her leg with a scalpel,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit says she was harassed on a Facebook page that was created with the title: “If you think (the student) is a whore and needs to go back to 8th grade, join!” The mother of one of the girls who created the page posted comments on the page, according to the suit.
It also claims “In January, 2011, two students at Green High School created a “kill list” which included (the student’s) name as a target for being killed or hurt. While school officials assured (the student’s mother) that the perpetrators would never be able to set foot in the high school again, one of the perpetrators was seen by (the student) in the cafeteria just three weeks after the incident,” according to the suit.
“The explanation was that he had been expelled, but they put him in another school, but he had to come to Green High School to catch a bus to transition him to this other school; so he was in the building. My client saw him there, which of course freaked her out,” said attorney, Ken Meyers, who represents the student’s family.
“They took a situation and not only didn’t make it better but made it worse and so the allegation was that the school district by not taking appropriate action to prevent ongoing bullying actually encouraged or empowered the bullies to understand that there weren’t going to be severe consequences so it increased the likelihood that it would just continue,” said Meyers.
Meyers says the girl’s parents did attempt to address the bullying with school administrators.
“As we state in our complaint, in the lawsuit, the parents made frequent complaints both verbally and by email. They had meetings, went up the chain through different officials in the school district and the parents felt they were not getting any appropriate response because the incidents just kept happening,” he said.
According to the lawsuit, the student completely withdrew from the Green Local School District in 2011 “because of the daily, day-long harassment which was driving her to depression.”
The Green School Board on Tuesday issued a statement saying:
“For over three years, district administrators and employees have been involved in defending a bullying case in federal court. A settlement agreement has been reached with the plaintiffs. We are pleased the lawsuit is now behind us.
The Board of Education condemns bullying without reservation. Our district continues to implement not only a variety of anti bullying programs, but programming which teaches, encourages and rewards positive and appropriate behavior at each district building. We encourage students who feel harassed or intimidated to follow the Board’s policies and procedures in reporting their experiences.”
Meyers says, along with the settlement, the district has agreed to allow the U.S. Department of Education to come in and review the school district’s policies on bullying and also the school district agreed to provide further training for its teachers and staff.
Meyers admits that bullying is a problem for virtually every school district. But he says the problem isn’t that the districts do not have policies and protocols for addressing bullying, it is that they are not enforcing their policies.
“If the school district over the course of time doesn’t use those protocols, doesn’t take any action, the end result is the bullying continues; the school district is going to be held responsible,” said Meyers.
“The lawsuit alleged that the district had a responsibility to keep students safe” and “They breached that duty by failing to take reasonable steps to curtail the bullying,” according to the suit.
“There’s no way to prevent bullying totally but if you send a message from the very top of a school administration that it will not be tolerated then it generally is controllable; if you send a message that we are not going to do anything about it, we are going to punish at the minimum end of the disciplinary code, that we are going to look for ways to avoid doing anything, then the opposite message is sent and you have ongoing systemic problems,” said Meyers.