Can a school be held responsible for emotional distress from bullying?

by Samantha
(St Charles, MO)

My son was bullied (racial slurs, hitting him, spit balls all kinds of stuff) by a group of students and charges were filed and the boys were sentenced. The school allowed them to come back and continue bothering my son and threatening me.

Can I sue the school for negligence, discrimination and emotional distress? Can anything be done to keep these students away from my son?

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Can a school be held responsible for emotional distress from bullying?":

Samantha (St Charles, MO):

The school has a duty to protect all its students from abuse, including but not limited to assaults and to some extent, racial slurs and verbal bullying. Before going any further you must be sure you have made the school aware the bullies continue to assail your son.

Although it's the school's duty to monitor the activities of its students, your claim will be greatly strengthened if you have some proof you followed up after the initial incident with new episodes of continued bullying.

Put your complaints in writing. Make sure you identify in detail each incident and the underlying circumstances. Be sure to name the bullies.

Hand deliver or send the letter certified return receipt requested. If your son was physically assaulted again you can also contact your local police department and file a criminal action against each bully for assault. A history of police intervention will greatly strengthen your case.

If you aren't satisfied with the school's response your next step will be to contact an attorney.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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