School District Pays Over $9 Million to Family of Suicide VictimBullying is something that many New Jersey students struggle with today, and in severe cases, the experience can lead to suicide. But can school districts be held liable for allowing this bullying to continue? Can they be sued for suicides that result from bullying? A recent multi-million dollar settlement suggests that the answer might be “yes” to both questions. School districts do owe their students a certain duty of care, and this extends to not only protection from physical hazards but also protection from psychological harm.

Rockaway Township School District Pays Family of Suicide Victim $9.1 Million

Back in 2017, 12-year-old Mallory Grossman committed suicide. Her parents discovered her dead in her bedroom and eventually came to the conclusion that the school district was to blame. Although her bullies were female classmates who repeatedly encouraged her to commit suicide in the lunchroom, her parents believed that the school principal and other staff members failed to take effective action to prevent the unthinkable.

Although a significant part of her bullying took place in the lunchroom, she was also subjected to constant cyberbullying through apps like Snapchat and Instagram – to the point where her parents later referred to her cellphone as the “lethal weapon” that claimed her life. On the day that she committed suicide, Mallory and her parents met with the school principal and other officials.

These officials apparently did nothing to help the child. The principal handed the child a poker chip and instructed her to go “all in.” He then told her that she was no longer safe at school and that it would be best if she went home. The principal also seems to have taken very little action against the bullies. They also chose to isolate Mallory by instructing her to eat lunch alone in the Counsellor’s office rather than addressing the unsafe environment of the lunchroom.

The parents argue that the poker chip was essentially a slap in the face – the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It indicated that the principal was not willing to take any realistic action to address the situation. These were the arguments that the parents made as they pursued justice for their child, and in the end, they proved to be convincing. Experts agreed with the parents’ account of the events, calling the district’s actions “incredibly stupid.”

At one point, school staff instructed Mallory to hug one of her bullies – a decision that experts say caused additional humiliation. At least one expert argues that the bullies should have been gathered together and addressed separately. If nothing else, this situation shows that schools can be held liable for psychological harm rather than only physical injuries. However, one must remember that the victim lost their life in this case, which makes it especially serious. Other instances of bullying in New Jersey may not lead to such high settlements.

Other Examples of School Fatalities in New Jersey

Another example of a school-related fatality involves school sports, particularly football. In 2022, A New Jersey high school football player died after experiencing a head injury during one match. It took two weeks for the injury to take its full toll on the player and eventually cause the fatality. That same year, another high school football player in the state suffered a spinal cord injury during a match that left him hospitalized. This led to a nationwide debate over the safety of football in high school and the prevalence of serious head injuries.

Another common cause of school-related injuries is school bus crashes. These crashes occur on a fairly regular basis across New Jersey, and sometimes they are caused by driver negligence. There is growing concern about the overall quality of school bus drivers, as many are elderly, sleep-deprived due to working several jobs, or otherwise unqualified.

Where Can I Find an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in New Jersey?

If your child has suffered harm while attending school in New Jersey, you might have the opportunity to sue the school district. To discuss your legal options in more detail, consider getting in touch with a personal injury attorney in New Jersey. Choose Lependorf & Silverstein to get started with an effective action plan. Whether your child has suffered a head injury while playing sports or a self-inflicted injury due to psychological harm, the school district may be held accountable. Book your consultation today to begin the legal process.

The firm’s principals, Gabriel R. Lependorf and David E. Silverstein, have each been representing injured victims in the State of New Jersey for over thirty years.

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