Visitor Question

Can I Sue the School District for Emotional Distress?

Submitted By: Elise (Bayside, New York)

I have a child that was promoted to the next grade level by the district superintendent and 10 days later I was verbally told they rescinded on this offer. I never received anything in writing until the day before the school year began.

I’ve since learned my daughter’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) was violated by her previous school. My child currently with a learning disability now suffers from an anxiety disorder, emotional distress and anger issues. She never had any of these symptoms until this ordeal with her school occurred.

Not only is my child suffering but as a family we are being torn apart. My child has physical outbursts and at times has harmed her sisters and parents. She sees a therapist and is currently on medication. All of this anguish has been extremely difficult on my family (both in time and money). This emotional anguish we are all suffering from her problems was brought on my the New York City school superintendent. I have many more facts that attain to my child’s case.

My question is: Can I sue the school for the mistakes that were made on my child’s case? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Elise,

Suing a school district is very difficult in any case. Even more difficult is prevailing. From the facts you present it is clear your daughter has suffered greatly. It is also clear her family has as well.

Suing a governmental agency in New York City is different than suing one outside of the City but within the State of New York. In the City of New York your suit has to begin with what is called a “Notice of Claim”. After that there are a myriad of legal pleadings to be filed and deadlines which cannot be missed for fear of dismissal of the entire case with prejudice.

“With prejudice” means you cannot have a “do over.” You’re out and the case is over.

The General Municipal Law Section 50-(e) is the controlling statute in a claim against an NYC School District. The School District is considered by law to be a Public and a Municipal Corporation and if you are going to sue them the lawsuit must be filed in the New York State Supreme Court or local County Court.

If you were to prevail the law DOES NOT provide for an award of damages for Mental Anguish to a 3rd party. You would therefore be precluded from receiving compensation.

If you are intent on pursuing your claim you really must seek out a qualified Attorney who specializes in suing New York State and New York City Public and Municipal Corporations. Only with the professional help they can provide will your daughter have any chance of success.

Learn more here: Claims for School Injuries & Accidents

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


4 thoughts on “Can I Sue the School District for Emotional Distress?

  1. GS says:

    My daughter has suffered at the school’s hand too to the degree of being suspended and harassment charges filed against her for emailing the principal too much (pleading for forgiveness for being a “failure” and a “burden” while being bed-ridden due to the mental and physical manifestations of her state of mind).

    The lawyers I spoke with all said the same thing: “This is appalling,” “Unless you have $10k’s, you won’t stand a chance and this doesn’t mean you will win” and “Can you handle the additional emotional distress of a lawsuit that you will probably not win?”

    Mental health advocates are nowhere to be found (they don’t want to take on the schools either). You can file a case with the U.S. Civil Rights office without suing the school but it’s pretty close to the same ordeal. The safest recommendation from the lawyers – find a different school (and hope they treat your child better and that your child recovers).

    We homeschooled and went in and out of mental health hospitals for two years (it did help and I shame myself for not knowing sooner that I should pull her out of school if I want any hope of helping her be happy someday).

    How can schools/personnel get away with this?? Where are the entities responsible for truly looking out for children with mental health issues??

  2. Roger says:

    My son has been on an IEP since first grade. He was diagnosed with Autism in the third grade. He is in sixth grade now and reads at a second grade level.

    This week he has ran away from school twice. Apparently he ran away the first time for telling a teacher that another student asked him to suck his d!@#. The teacher told my son it didn’t happen! My son ran to tell another adult after being physically restrained by said teacher. My son got to the office to talk to the staff and when the teacher entered the office, out the door my son went.

    We’ve been to mediation twice in an attempt to get the proper services and numerous meetings. All of which have been unproductive. Everything is always swept under the rug and nothing ever gets better.

    Best of luck to us all!
    Poor kids these days.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you. Teachers bully my son. Kids that can’t go to school because of what teachers do and say don’t have any help.

    I’m in Taylor, Michigan and they don’t understand that my child can’t go to school. They say he won’t come to school, instead of trying to find out why he isn’t at school.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This frightens me. My son has been bullied by teachers and students, to the point where they even called DCF on us twice. My son suffers from a mental illness and cannot even go to school now because of the emotional distress.

    So basically, a school can abuse a child and they don’t even have to provide an education. My son is on an IEP and the school has offered nothing for support. They let him stay at home with no tutor or even another avenue.

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