Can I Sue the School if My Child Was Bullied?
School bullying is a major problem in the United States. According to StopBullying.Gov, a federal anti-bullying initiative, 19% of American high school students reported experiencing bullying at school within the past year.
Bullying can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences — and you may wonder if you are eligible to file a lawsuit against your child’s school. Schools are liable for bullying under certain circumstances.
When Is a School Liable for Bullying?
School districts are liable for the actions of the schools and teachers under their jurisdiction, and all schools must have anti-bullying policies in place to protect students. School districts are liable for bullying if the bullying involved one of the following circumstances.
- The school district failed to adequately protect all of its students against bullying.
- School personnel witnessed the bullying and failed to prevent it.
- The bullying occurred due to a school personnel’s comments or actions.
You can also hold a school liable if the bullying violated federal regulations and your child’s school receives federal funding. For example, if the bullying involves racial discrimination, you can file a lawsuit against the school under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act.
If your child faces bullying because he or she has a disability, you can file a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title IX protects students who experience sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment at school. Each type of lawsuit involves its own burden of proof, and you will need to consult with an attorney prior to filing a claim.
How to Sue a California School District for Bullying and Harassment
Public schools and some private institutions are immune from most lawsuits because of governmental immunity, but you can sue a school under certain circumstances. If you file a lawsuit under a federal anti-discrimination statute, you will need to adhere to specific federal filing requirements. If you wish to pursue a lawsuit against your child’s school in California civil court, you will need to follow the California Tort Claims Act.
The Act sets forth specific requirements for filing a personal injury lawsuit against the government, which includes school districts and their employees. A government agency is responsible for the actions of their employees if the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment or carrying out a government function.
For example, if a teacher witnesses students bullying your child during class and failed to act, the school district would be liable for his or her actions since the teacher was carrying out his or her job duties at the time of the incident.
Prior to filing your lawsuit, you will need to send the school district a notice of claim within six months of the bullying incident. This notice will inform the school district of your intent to sue, and you will need to include the following information.
- Your name and address, as well as your mailing address
- The date, location, and circumstances of the bullying
- A general description of your child’s damages
- The names of any school employees who caused the bullying or failed to prevent it
- The amount of damages you want to claim, if the total is less than $10,000. If you are pursuing over $10,000 in damages, you do not need to include the dollar amount.
It is best to speak with a Bakersfield school bullying attorney before filing your claim or writing the notice of claim. Your attorney will understand whether or not your case qualifies for legal action, as well as the specific requirements and filing deadlines you will need to adhere to when pursuing a claim against a school district. If you have not done so already, speak to your attorney as soon as possible to strategize your next steps.