Texarkana, TX 76° View Live Radar Mon H 77° L 51° Tue H 69° L 43° Wed H 72° L 51° Weather Sponsored By:

Parents test school liability in bullying and child suicide

Parents test school liability in bullying and child suicide

August 13th, 2017 by Associated Press in National News

CINCINNATI—The parents of an 8-year-old Ohio boy who hanged himself from his bunk bed with a necktie want school officials held responsible, testing the issue of school liability in suicides blamed on bullying.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Gabriel Taye against Cincinnati Public Schools and school officials cites repeated examples of Gabriel and others being bullied at his elementary school. They contend school officials knew about the bullying but were "deliberately indifferent," allowing a "treacherous school environment."

Knowledge of harassment and failure to do something are among elements set out in a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling for school liability cases.

"The deliberate indifference standard set forth (by the Supreme Court) sets a high bar for plaintiffs," a 2016 opinion by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says. "It requires only that school administrators respond to known peer harassment in a manner that is not 'clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.'"

The ruling rejected an appeal by a Tennessee family that sued a school district over two years of alleged relentless bullying that forced their son to change schools.

Cincinnati school officials have said that the boy told staff he fainted the day his parents say Gabriel was knocked unconscious at a school bathroom and that he never said he was bullied or assaulted. He killed himself two days later, on Jan. 26.

Legal experts say such lawsuits seem to be coming more common amid increasing public awareness campaigns on youth bullying. A 2015 federal survey estimated that about 21 percent of U.S. students, ages 12-18, said they had been bullied.

Federal authorities say they are still learning about the links between school bullying and suicide, saying bullying increases the risk of suicidal behavior but that the majority of bullying cases don't result in suicide, suicide attempts, or thoughts of suicide.

Courts have shown reluctance to increase the demands on school officials to quell bullying. The Supreme Court has urged courts against second-guessing school administrators' disciplinary decisions, to allow them flexibility they need to deal with children who are still learning how to interact appropriately.

The federal cases often take years to resolve, unless the two sides reach a settlement. A wrongful death lawsuit filed by parents of a 14-year-old Missouri boy who killed himself in 2013 after being bullied was settled for $300,000 two years ago. Earlier this year, a Mississippi school district settled for undisclosed terms a lawsuit by parents of a seventh-grader who died of injuries from alleged bullying.

A 2015 lawsuit filed against nearby Fairfield City Schools in Ohio and officials by the parents of a girl who fatally shot herself after being bullied repeatedly, including frequent racial and sexual insults, is scheduled for federal trial in Cincinnati in early 2018.

Plaintiffs in such cases have often said that among their reasons for going to court is the hope it will bring changes that will protect other students from bullying.

"We want to open a Pandora's box, we want to push against the hornet's nest," said Bruce Nagel, attorney for the family of a 12-year-old New Jersey girl who killed herself in June, allegedly after months of bullying by classmates. "We want to end this forever."

Mallory Grossman's family has said they plan to sue her school district.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com