N.J. AG announces $130K bullying settlement

Bryan Cohen Dec. 27, 2011, 1:30pm


TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow and Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara announced a settlement on Friday between a student and the Emerson school board, accused of failure to effectively address harassment.

The Board of Education in Emerson, Bergen County, agreed to pay the former student $130,000 to resolve allegations that the school district did not effectively address cyber, physical and verbal harassment of the student that went on for years. Under the terms of the settlement, the Emerson school district makes no admission of wrongdoing.

"This is a fair outcome that resolves troubling allegations - a young man subjected to persistent harassment by other students over a period of six years," Dow said. "Hopefully, this case will serve as a reminder to others that the state takes this issue very seriously."

The board, which was named the sole respondent in finding of probable cause by the division in November 2010, oversees a district made up of three schools, including two elementary schools and the Emerson Junior/Senior High School. According to the finding of probable cause, the district allegedly did not adequately deal with continued harassment of the male student that began in 2002 and continued through 2007 during junior and senior high school. The student was identified as J.C., Jr.

The alleged harassment was reported to school authorities on numerous occasions and included name-calling, derogatory comments, physical assaults and threats of violence. In one alleged example, students created a page on a social networking website that became a forum for disparaging remarks. Overall, the victim's parents reported at least 17 instances of harassment to school district officials.

In addition to the $130,000 payout, the settlement also calls for Emerson schools to create clear protocols for the reporting and inquiry into harassment, intimidation and bullying complaints, and to implement programs and policies to prevent bullying and provide adequate training of staff and to ensure that teachers, students and administrators are fully aware of those policies.

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