New York City may start picking up the tab for bullied students who can prove their school did nothing to prevent the harassment from taking place.
In a game-changing case, a judge in New York has ruled that a 12-year-old girl with special needs, who was removed from P.S. 6 on the Upper East Side after facing constant bullying from her classmates during the 2007-2008 school year, may have been deprived of her educational rights. The New York Post reports the student's parents enrolled her in private school after pulling her out of P.S. 6 and are asking that the city's Department of Education fork over $40,000 to cover the money spent on her one year of attendance at a private school before the family moved out of the area.
Some of the torment she experienced, according to the New York Post, includes:
They laughed when she raised her hand and refused to touch pens or paper she had handled. They also handed her a crude drawing of her that they marked with words like “ugly” and “smelly.” They pushed and tripped her “for fun.” One kid chased the girl with ketchup, telling her it was blood.
According to the city's Department of Education policies, reports of bullying or harassment are to be investigated, and disciplinary action will be taken if there is a violation of the discipline code. However, P.S. 6 school officials allegedly did not take action against the bullies, nor did they want to speak to the parents about the circumstances.
In his ruling, Brooklyn federal judge Jack Weinstein wrote, "When a school fails to take reasonable steps to prevent such objectionable harassment of a student, it has denied her an educational benefit protected by statute."
Under the provisions of Free Appropriate Public Education, children with disabilities are required by law to receive special education and related services to meet their needs. The DOE asserts that the girl received special attention, including one-on-one time with a teacher's aide and speech, occupational, and physical therapy.
Judge Weinstein ordered the DOE to investigate if officials at P.S. 6 did anything to stop the bullying. The findings will determine if the city will pay the family for L.K's private school tuition.
This monumental ruling could invite a host of lawsuits involving special education, and even non-special needs students, who have faced a similar situation. Already, the DOE reimburses around $235 million a year to parents who prove that their disabled children did not receive proper education in public schools. Until now, bullying was never taken into consideration.
Do you think New York City's Department of Education should shell out $40,000 for the bullying victim's tuition? Let us know in the comments.