HACKENSACK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – A New Jersey judge has granted summary judgment on behalf of a Bergen County school district in a case involving alleged student cyberbullying.
Judge Robert Wilson found for defendants Edgewater Board of Education, Edgewater School District and others in a lawsuit brought against them by Hector and Ruth Rodriguez, guardian ad litem for their daughter, Madeline Rodriguez.
According to the Sept. 1 opinion, in 2013, 10-year-old Madeline Rodriguez and her mother were asked to the principal’s office to have a meeting with school defendants and the Edgewater Police Department about a cyberbullying email she allegedly sent from a Roblox account.
However, the adolescent denied sending the correspondence specifically, citing the use of poor grammar she claimed she would not write.
According to the plaintiff’s mother, the detective and a school defendant insisted she did send the email and became "aggressive" with the student.
Ruth Rodriguez alleged that Madeline was treated "like an adult criminal suspect being accused of a serious crime,” according to the ruling, adding her daughter's due process and constitutional rights were violated during the interrogation.
According to the plaintiffs, the entire matter should have been handled differently due to Madeline’s age and disciplinary history. Charging that the school defendants violated their own harassment, intimidation and bullying policy by detaining the child for an extended period of time at such a young age, plaintiffs pointed out the adolescent's excellent disciplinary and academic history.
The plaintiffs said the school district failed to consider the availability of counseling and did not conduct due diligence by ignoring the grammar and style of email.
Wilson saw the situation differently, ruling Madeline was not treated with malicious intent by authorities.
“The school defendants are immune from the allegations made against them because they were merely exercising their judgment or discretion,” the judge wrote, adding, “the facts show that the school defendants carried out their duties in an objectively reasonable manner, in the presence of Madeline’s mother, with the intent to obtain information regarding the serious offense of cyberbullying.”
All claims against school defendants were dismissed with prejudice, including the alleged violation of due process and equal protection under and claims of intentional emotional distress and any infliction of emotional distress.