A New Jersey judge has ruled that a school district can sue the classmates who mocked and harassed a student.
The case stems from incidents in the Hunterdon Central School District. The former student sued the school for failing to stop the harassment from other students who made fun of his weight and his perceived homosexuality.
The district filed its own suit, claiming the parents were told about what was going on and may have some liability because they didn’t stop their children from tormenting the plaintiff.
Bullying is essentially a form of institutional neglect, said Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention.
“Bullying primarily arises from the culture and climate of the schools,” Green said Tuesday. “It not almost ever a function of bad kids, bad families, and bad communities.”
Schools may not be the only responsible parties, said Jonathan Busch, a partner with a law firm that represents more than 80 school districts.
“There’s perhaps finally some recognition there will be some things that school districts just can’t control as behavior among kids sometimes just happens,” Busch said.
It appears to be the first time New Jersey schools forced parents of alleged bullies to be parties in a lawsuit.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.