By: Diana Adjadj, Esq.
April 5, 2023
School bullying has been an ongoing problem in American schools. In a recent study completed by the U.S. Department of Education, the department asked the question, “how many students are bullied at school?”. In 2019 it was estimated that nearly 22% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the academic year. The National Center for Education Statistics published their findings drawing distinctions amongst school bulling by: sex, race/ethnicity, grade, school locale and distinctions between the private and public sector.
Ongoing school bulling and the rise of cyberbullying is an issue of grave concern for parents, students, teachers, the school districts, and government entities alike. In hopes of providing guidance and clarity the American Psychological Association (“APA”) is educating the public on what bullying is, looking at the long-term negative mental health outcomes and providing guidance to teachers and parents on how to respond and prevent bullying.
The APA defined bulling on school grounds as follows:
The APA is a reputable resource looking at the following issues:
In response to the recent studies regarding school bullying, the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, created stoppbullying.gov. On the government website, the U.S. Surgeon General posted a video encouraging schools, educators, administrators, and parents to unite to prevent bullying.
An eleven-year-old Hispanic American student, enrolled in the fifth grade at Los Angeles Union School District (LAUSD) struggled with sever learning disabilities and autism. Considering his disabilities, the minor student’s IEP: Individualized Education Plan, required full-time one-on-one aide, known as a Temporary Support Assistance – TSA. Specifically the TSA was required to support the student with his behavioral, academic, social and safety needs. LAUSD failed to supply the required TSA and the disabled student was severely bullied.
LAUSD was on notice of the school bullying directed to the disabled student, despite this the school took no corrective or preventative measures to care for the student’s well-being. While there were instances of name calling and humiliation, there were also instances of violent acts, specifically a fellow student kicked the minor plaintiff in his scrotum.
One evening the pain and swelling in the plaintiff’s left testicle was so debilitating that the father rushed the student to the emergency room where an ultrasound was preformed, and the minor was diagnosed with “scrotal hematoma”. The following day the minor’s father advised the school as to the bullying and requested that LAUSD comply with the IEP. Again, the school did nothing. The school took no corrective or preventative measures and disregarded the IEP and the father’s concerns.
Shortly thereafter the school bully again kicked the minor in his scrotum and this time the minor plaintiff could not walk properly. As a result of his school injuries, the minor plaintiff required a five-hour emergency surgery for testicular torsion, the removal of one testicle and half the other, and a urethral catheterization. Despite these instances the school again failed to monitor the minor plaintiff closely, did not comply with the IEP and did nothing to address the school bullying.
The minor plaintiff, by and through his father brought forth a civil complaint against the school district alleging seven causes of action: (1) Negligence (Education Code § 56100); (2) Negligent Supervision (Education Code §§ 44807, 44808); (3) Race, National Origin and Religious Discrimination (Civil Code § 51.7); (4) Assault (Civil Code § 51.7); (5) Battery (Civil Code § 51.7); (6) Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Education Code § 56100); (7) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Civil Code § 51.7).
In 2007 this case went before a jury. The student presented evidence that he was eligible for special education services due to his severe learning disabilities and autism. Further the evidence showed that the autism and disability was so severe that the student health and safety was at risk, thus he required full-time aide or TSA. LAUSD had an obligation to provide full-time aide yet failed to do so.
After deliberations the jury found that the school district was negligent, and that the school’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to the minor student. The minor student was awarded $800,000 (eight-hundred thousand dollars) in compensatory damages. Alex C. Hernandez, by and through his guardian ad Litem, Alex Hernandez Sr., v. Los Angeles Unified School District; Case No: BC342861(2007), Trial Court: Superior Court of the State of California, for the County of Los Angeles – Central District.