Category Archives: School Bullying

Can I Sue the School if My Child Was Bullied?

Monday, August 24, 2020

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.


Posted by highrank at 1:53 pm

Rodriguez & Associates Attorneys on The Great Trials Podcast

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Daniel Rodriguez, Chantal A. Trujillo and Danay Gonzalez were guests on the Great Trials Podcast on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020. Listeners got a behind the scenes look of the Taft Unified School District v. Cleveland case.

In 2013, Bryan Oliver, opened fire with a shot gun at Taft High School, seriously injuring his classmate, Bowe Cleveland. Cleveland was shot in the chest and has since underwent more than 30 surgeries.

Rodriguez & Associates represented Cleveland and after suing the Taft Unified School District, he was awarded $3.8 million in damage.

Listen to the episode by clicking here or listen below:

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 3:38 pm

What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied at School

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

It wasn’t so long ago that bullying at school was considered just another part of growing up and something children were meant to work out between themselves. Fortunately, that attitude is changing dramatically, and today more parents, schools, and lawmakers treat bullying as an unacceptable activity that in some cases is even criminal.

Nonetheless, bullying persists, and the consequences can have long-term effects on a person’s mental and physical health long past childhood. In some cases, the repercussions of bullying are fatal: Rodriguez & Associates is currently representing a family of a teenage boy who was bullied so relentlessly it eventually drove him to suicide. In the United States, bullying is also closely linked to school shootings.

Parents can teach and protect their children by gaining a better understanding of what to do when their child is a victim of bullying, whether that means going to teachers or going to law enforcement. 

If you believe your child is being bullied at school, consider the following steps:

1. Learn to recognize signs of bullying.

In many cases, your child won’t walk right up to you and say they are being bullied by another student. But certain signs indicate the potential presence of bullying.

Random, unexplained physical injuries, such as scrapes or bruises, could mean violence. A classic sign is your child not wanting to go to school: they may try to avoid it by claiming they are sick. When this starts to happen frequently, you may have a bullying problem on your hands. Other potential indicators include damaged or missing property, failing grades, and your child suddenly wanting to avoid social activities.

While none of these things are exclusive to bullying, any one of them could indicate problems at school and should be investigated thoroughly and immediately.

2. Don’t overreact.

As a parent, your natural inclination might be to head straight to school to confront the bully. Or you may feel the need to voice out loud, in front of your child, the unfairness of the situation and how angry it makes you.

But emotionally charged statements and reactions, however well intended, might actually work against you, as they might make your child feel less safe. For example, you confronting the bully on the school playground could actually lead to further teasing or worse for your child, making them feel even less safe at school than they were before.

Instead, make it a point to listen calmly as your child explains the situation in their own terms. Let them do most of the talking, so they can feel free to express their true feelings and concerns. Try to avoid making any judgements or assumptions, especially about the other child.

3. Talk to your child’s teacher.

It is important to get the teacher involved early in the process, preferably as soon as your child starts talking to you or someone else about being bullied. Set up a time to meet with the teacher and explain the situation. Don’t simply make the assumption that the teacher already knows and simply hasn’t done anything. In many cases, teachers aren’t even aware that their students are being bullied.

Once made aware, though, they must become part of the solution. Follow up with the teacher after your initial conversation to make sure the school is using the resources it should have in place to address bullying. If the situation is still not resolved after getting the teacher involved, you may need to go to the school’s principal.

4. Go to the police.

In some extreme cases, bullying can turn to actual violence or threats of it. When that happens, it’s a crime and it’s time to get law enforcement involved. In light of tragic events that have happened at schools across the U.S. over the years, both schools and police take these threats of violence very seriously.

If taking such drastic measures makes you uncomfortable or you are not sure how to proceed, you can also consult an attorney. A lawyer with experience in handling cases of bullying can counsel you through the situation and help you understand your options as well as when it makes most sense to involve the police or pursue litigation.

Students of all ages have a right to attend school without fear of being harassed or bullied about who they are—their beliefs, appearance, ethnicity, and all the other factors that make up a human being. Rodriguez & Associates is committed to helping parents put an end to bullying and make schools safe, welcoming, open environments for all children to attend. Reach out to us today to discuss your concerns.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 5:30 pm

What Schools Can Learn from the Bowe Cleveland Case About Gun Violence

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

When it comes to gun violence in schools, questions over how to best protect our students are becoming more and more critical to answer. Last year was a record year for gun violence in schools, and students are at risk of not only mass tragedies on the scale of Parkland and Sandy Hook, but also of individual targeting.

A case Rodriguez & Associates took to trial this year underscores this issue, and raises even more questions, specifically around how much schools themselves should or can do when it comes to preventing gun violence on premises.

Bowe Cleveland, a former student at Taft Union High School in Kern County, California, was shot in the chest with a shotgun by fellow student Bryan Oliver on January 10, 2013.

Oliver pleaded no contest to two accounts of attempted murder without premeditation and was sentenced to 27 years to life. But Cleveland argued that school administrators ignored red flags about Oliver and could have prevented the attack in the first place. After suing the school district, Cleveland was awarded $3.8 million in damages this past July. The case was the second school shooting in the U.S. to ever go to civil trial.  The first such trial was sometime in the 1990’s.

Cleveland accused the school district of ignoring numerous threats made by the shooter in the ten months leading up to the shooting. Those red flags included threats by the shooter of bringing a gun to school and shooting 50 students and blowing up the school auditorium during a pep rally. The school administrators received reports not only from students but even from teachers and staff that they were scared of what the shooter might do.

Cleveland also accused the school district of violating their own written safety protocol.  This written safety protocol called for a threat assessment plan on how to deal with students making such threats.  The school district came up with a weak plan and then failed to modify it in the face of continuing threats made by the shooter.  Finally, Cleveland accused the school district of violating their own written safety protocol because they were more concerned with their school image than the safety of their kids.

Cleveland suffered severe injuries after the shooting that required 30 surgeries over the past six and a half years. During his opening statement in the second phase of the trial, attorney Daniel Rodriguez said Cleveland faced lifelong continuing medical problems due to the shooting, and that he still deals with lead pellets embedded in his body.

This case, however, highlights the need for schools to not simply pay lip service to student safety but take the necessary actions to help prevent gun violence on school property.

While it is impossible to predict every single situation that might occur, raising awareness and taking steps in the face of suspicious activity could prevent cases like Bowe’s from repeating themselves in the future.

At Rodriguez & Associates, we stand behind the communities we serve, including schools and the students that attend them day after day. We hope this verdict can serve as a wake-up call across the nation, and stand willing to assist and play our role in making a change.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 8:06 pm

Curran Middle School Bullying

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bullying is a problem that’s been around for centuries, but the type of threats and the severity of consequences have changed in recent years. Today’s students can become victims of cyberbullying, or using electronic devices and equipment such as cell phones and computers to bully a victim via text message, email, or social media. Cyberbullying has been linked to depression, anxiety, and even suicide in young students. Unfortunately, the halls of many middle schools are not safe from this form of bullying or others.

Recent Cyberbullying Investigation at Curran Middle Schools

In February 2017, police launched an investigation at Curran Middle School in the face of new threats against students. While they made no arrests, they did receive a confession from two students who admitted to creating a social media account. The students said they created the account for attention and had no intention of doing anything. According to the original complaint a few months ago, there had been multiple social media threats listing students targeted for a supposed school shooting and the dates on which the shootings would occur.

As of now, there is no confirmation that new findings relate to these prior threats. However, police have identified one 14-year-old girl as a suspect. Ultimately, the District Attorney’s Office will decide whether a crime took place. Investigators are still digging into the source of the original threats. While police say they don’t believe Carron Middle School students are in any danger, many parents are keeping their children home from school. This recent cyberbullying event raises many questions and concerns about bullying.

The Dangers of School Bullying

Bullying is a real threat to students. In spite of efforts of communities, schools, and parents to put an end to bullying, it still pervades thousands of schools all over the world. “Bullying” describes any type of intimidation one person imposes on another. Students may become victims of verbal, physical, or psychological bullying. All forms can have serious ramifications on a person’s life, including:

  • Physical harm and injuries
  • Health problems and complaints
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Poor self-confidence and self-image
  • Emotional and mental trauma
  • Feelings of isolation from friends and family
  • Problems with fear, anxiety, and depression
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Problems in school or with grades
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

In the event of bullying, parents may be able to hold a school liable for damages. This may be the case if a negligent staff member contributed to your child’s harm, such as by failing to supervise children or take reasonable action to prevent bullying. The courts may hold a school liable for negligence or intentional acts if teachers contribute to bullying or student harassment.

When to Speak to an Attorney

Not all cases of school bullying are grounds for personal injury lawsuits, but many are. Most school bullying attorneys offer free initial consultations, giving you the opportunity to speak to a licensed lawyer about your child’s particular situation. If the lawyer believes your case has merit due to someone else’s negligence or intent to harm, you may want to pursue a lawsuit against the school or school district. A lawsuit can result in recovery for your child’s damages, including his/her personal injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

A local attorney can help you learn your rights as a parent and your options moving forward. An attorney can also file a claim against the school district on your behalf and represent you during settlement negotiations and a trial if your case goes to court. For more information about a bullying case at Curran Middle School, speak to the attorneys at Rodriguez & Associates of Bakersfield.

Posted by highrank at 9:23 pm