Unreported bullying can result in wrongful death lawsuit

It is no secret that schoolyard bullying exists and has existed for as long as there have been children. But in the age of social media and electronic communication it has become pervasive with no safe haven. Back in the day, one could escape the schoolyard bully in the safety of one’s home and the embrace of one’s sympathetic family as is illustrated in the holiday classic “A Christmas Story.” But as 2019 draws to a close, there is no more safe haven from bullying in California or elsewhere in the country. A wrongful death lawsuit as a result of the suicide of a young girl illustrates that concept all too well.

Last Spring, a 12-year-old girl in Yuba City texted a friend that she was being bullied and was considering suicide. The friend was concerned and showed the test message to a teacher who took the information to the principal who in turn informed a school counselor of the issue. The counselor met with the 12-year-old and said she would follow up on the issue. The girl’s parents were not notified about what had transpired.

The girl’s family is suing the school for wrongful death. Seven weeks after the teacher was first notified of the text, one of the alleged bullies suggested to the girl that she kill herself. The next day, the girl went to school, handed in her homework assignments, and went home and hanged herself.

Teen depression and suicide are growing at an alarming rate in California and around the country. It is not known how much impact cyberbullying has but there is no denying that it is a contributing factor. In this instance, the school appears to have been in violation of school policy that states that parents are to be notified as soon as possible if a teacher or administrator has reason to believe a child is suicidal. Failure to do so can result in what could have been a preventable wrongful death lawsuit.