Risk Management: Suit Hits Indiana School District Over Death of Son, Not Preventing Bullying

In October, we posted a blog about school bullying and the steps many states and school districts are doing to help combat this. The issue continually remains in the spotlight: A 14-year-old Indiana high school student committed suicide on October 20, 2010 at his home, and his mother has now filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton Southeastern school district alleging that it deprived the boy of his rights under federal non-discrimination laws.

The suit claims that the boy was singled out because of “his race, perceived homosexuality, and emotional disability.” According to his mother, her son was targeted for years, with students throwing pieces of metal at him in welding class and making anti-gay slurs. Her attorney said the school district should have done more to stop the bullying.

School bullying is one of the most serious issues facing educational institutions
today, leading to school violence, a more negative school climate, and potential legal actions from parents as underscored by the recent Indiana case cited above. Civil suits brought against schools and school systems over bullying incidents have resulted in some damages awarded in the millions of dollars. Like harassment and discrimination, some forms of bullying are serious, illegal actions and must be treated as such.

As an insurance advisor to educational institutions, part of a 360-degree risk management approach in serving your clients is to make sure a sound bullying prevention program is in place and executed throughout the institution. Effective program implementation can reduce bullying by 50 percent or more while also increasing student achievement, decreasing discipline referrals and truancy, creating a more positive school climate, unifying staff, and forming stronger parent relationships.

Caitlin-Morgan provides insurance coverage to many types of educational facilities including higher education facilities, such as universities, public schools, private & charter schools and schools for special needs.