Should principals be held legally liable for bullying?
A Baltimore city jury ruled Thursday, that they should not.
But that has not stopped the debate about whether the defense that held up in court--the parents of a bullied special needs student didn't document every interaction and complaint to their schools--holds up in public opinion.
A four-day-trial ended Thursday, with a city jury deciding that the principal of Hazelwood Elementary and the former principal of Glenmount Elementary school were not negligent in addressing the chronic bullying of a special needs student, who suffered behavioral issues as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
Edmund and Shawna Sullivan, the parents of the boy, brought a $1.3 million lawsuit against the school system--though every count against the system as a whole was thrown out--that ended up leaving the principals on the line for negligence and gross negligence.
The principals admitted that they were made aware by the Sullivans of several incidents at the schools.The principal of Hazelwood admitted that there may even have been a report of the boy and his sister "being beaten and robbed.
And while jurors believe that bullying took place, they said there wasn't enough evidence that their inaction led to the roughly $35,000 in physical and emotional damage (in addition to the damage you can quantify), because the parents hadn't documented with formal bullying forms and complaints to the school. Jurors also said the Sullivans were lacking consistent recounts of names, dates, and times.
However, outside of the legal considerations, jurors also said that they took into consideration the fact that their decision could essentially declare open season on school systems and principals across the country.
In our story today, the president of the city's principal union said the season has already begun.
But, in a district that is built around principal autonomy and accountability, who should be held responsible for the damage that is caused from a school yard rite of passage that, if unaddressed, can land children in mental institutions and educators in turmoil?
If not, who should?