If your child is being bullied, he or she is not alone. Thousands of children report being bullied each school year. The personal injury lawyers at Wieand Law Firm represent clients who suffer harm as a result of bullying. Bullying comes in many different forms, including physical violence and attacks, verbal abuse, intimidating threats, stealing money, and even cyber-bullying.
While Pennsylvania does have a statewide anti-bullying law, it is woefully inadequate in addressing these issues. Amended in 2008, the Pennsylvania School Code of 1949 required only that school districts “adopt a policy” which deals with bullying. Yet, the law does not prescribe what should be in that policy, and therefore leaves huge gaps in: reporting requirements, effective remediation, awareness of the policy, and education for prevention. In 2011, the United States Department of Education found Pennsylvania to have one of the weakest and most insufficient anti-bullying laws in the nation.
Fortunately, tort law remedies, which allow bullying victims to sue on their own behalf, are available. Tort law, which is created by both court decisions and statutory enactments, is generally intended to provide a vehicle by which individuals who have been injured can sue to recover damages. Tort law also serves as a deterrent to prevent similar injurious actions in the future.
With regard to bullying, typical tort actions include intentional tort claims or negligent tort claims. Lawsuits based on an intentional tort theory typically involve claims that fall into two categories: assault and/or battery. In general, assault claims involve fear of harmful or offensive touching, while battery claims involve actual harmful or offensive touching.
Lawsuits based on a negligent tort theory generally involve claims against schools for failure to reasonably supervise students or employees or for failure to anticipate the wrongful conduct of those parties.
In order to succeed in negligent tort claims, plaintiffs must establish that the school owed them a duty of supervision, that the school breached that duty, that the breach was a foreseeable cause of an injury, and that an actual injury resulted.
Pennsylvania’s compulsory school attendance requirement, along with its in loco parentis doctrine, it has been argued, creates a kind of “special relationship” between the school and its students that will create a duty to protect. In these cases, courts look to the nature of the custodial, or special relationship, as well as the particular fact pattern of the incident or incidents involved.
Additionally, public school districts and public charter schools are government entities. Consequently, employees of school districts and charter schools are considered to be “state actors” for legal purposes. This means that constitutional protections, and the related remedies for their violation, are another avenue for redress. See Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 119 (3d Cir. 1996). See also Enright v. Springfield, 2007WL4570970 (E.D. Pa. 2007) (Young student harmed by foreseeable acts of known disruptive students on school bus with inadequate supervision and inadequate training of driver.).
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Thanks to authors at The Wieand Law Firm for their insight into Personal Injury.
 According to the Center for Disease Control’s biannual national study of high school students in 2009:
19% of Pennsylvania students were bullied on school property in the past year.
10% of Pennsylvania students were in a physical fight on school property one or more times that year
(With 30% of Pennsylvania students in a physical fight on or off school grounds in the past year)
10% of Pennsylvania students have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. (In the 30 days before the survey)
 Cyber-bullying, which generally refers to harassment occurring among school-aged children through the use of the Internet, may or may not overlap with bullying that occurs in schools.