Friday, December 12, 2014
CJ R-1 lawyer: School officials don't have to deal with bullying
According to the lawyer, the defendants, including Superintendent Phil Cook, Assistant Superintendent Gary Reed, Junior High Principal Scott Sawyer, Assistant High School Principal Theresa Wilson, and bus driver David Roughton, have official immunity from being sued because they have had the proper training on how to deal with bullying, whether they deal with it or not.
In their lawsuit, Jessica and Mika Nugent, parents of 13-year-old Luke Nugent, claim that he killed himself in March 2013 after being bullied by high school students on the bus.
Roughton said he was unaware that Luke Nugent had been bullied.
Plaintiffs offered no evidence that Roughton was made aware of any allegations, or that any of the alleged misconduct occurred in a manner that should have put Roughton on notice. However, even if Plaintiffs did have supporting evidence (which they do not) Roughton's response to alleged student misconduct, including a decision to do nothing, would be inherently discretionary.
The same argument applies to the school officials, Teeter wrote.
All of them are covered by the Paul D. Coverdell Teacher Protection Act of 2001, part of the No Child Left Behind law, he wrote.
School employees must be allowed to use their judgment and discretion to respond to allegations and behaviors of students. They should be able to do so without the threat of tort suits hanging over them. Indeed, if the discretionary decisions of school employees regarding control and discipline are second-guessed through hindsight, in civil lawsuits, qualified individuals will be deterred from serving this important public role, and those who do serve will make discipline decisions based not on the best interests of students, but rather based on minimizing personal exposure to crippling monetary judgments.
Teeter noted that Sawyer took the extra step of riding the school bus after the bullying situation had been brought to his attention, but no one attempted to bully Luke Nugent that day.
The attorney's conclusion:
The death of L.N. is truly tragic. But the only events to which the Individual Defendants could possibly respond are those events of which they are aware. And even when educators are aware of discipline problems, they are immune from tort claims that seek to second-guess their exercise of discretion through the lens of hindsight.