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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Teen who killed bully won’t be charged

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Teen who killed bully won’t be charged

  • Jorge Saavedra, 15, stabbed and killed 16-year-old Dylan Nuno after an unprovoked attack
  • Saavedra was originally charged with manslaughter in juvenile court
  • A Florida judge now rules that Saavedra’s actions were legal because he was acting in self-defense

A Florida teen is now immune from civil and criminal charges in his classmate’s death, a judge ruled this week.

Jorge Saavedra, 15, “had more than enough reason to believe he was in danger of death or great bodily harm” from 16-year-old Dylan Nuno, in January of 2011, Judge Lauren Brodie said.

Court documents show Nuno had been harassing Saavedra for months, so much so that Saavedra brought a knife with him to school in Collier County, Florida. Witnesses say Nuno launched an unprovoked attack on Saavedra at the bus stop January 24. That’s when Saavedra stabbed and killed Nuno.

Saavedra was originally charged in juvenile court with manslaughter. But the judge ruled that according to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, his actions were legal because he was acting in self-defense. A majority of states have some sort of self-defense law, but it usually only applies in one’s own home. Five years ago, Florida expanded their law to include just about anywhere a person has a right to be.

Nuno’s father, Renier Nuno, told the Ft. Myers News-Press that the judge’s decision will only encourage more students to arm themselves. “If my son had a gun, he would be alive today. My son didn’t even have a rock or a stick,” he said.

Saavedra’s father, Jorge Saavedra Sr., spoke through his attorney, Donald Day, saying, “I’m relieved it’s over, but we feel horrible that this ever happened and it will have a serious, lifelong effect on our son.” Day added, “There really are no winners out of this today. It’s a tragedy all the way around.” Saavedra is undergoing counseling and will not return to Collier County after his release, according to his attorney.

The State Attorney’s office won’t appeal. Officials with the Collier County School District told our affiliate WINK they would not comment until they have read the ruling.

Victim: Dylan Nuno (killed)
The accused: Jorge Saavedra

 

Case type:  Teenage bullying

Location: Public

Initiator: Victim

Witnesses: Yes

Case year:  2011

Location details: School bus stop in Golden Gate Estates, Collier County, on Jan. 24, 2011

What happened: Jorge Saavedra, 14, fatally stabbed Dylan Nuno, 16, at a school bus stop. Saavedra had gotten off the bus early trying to avoid a fight. Testimony showed that Saavedra, who claimed Nuno bullied him and teased him about his learning disabilities, was trying to get away from Nuno and a group of his friends when he was punched in the back of the head. Witnesses said he continued to try to get away. But soon he took out a pocketknife and stabbed Nuno 12 times. One of the thrusts nicked Nuno’s heart. Both boys were students at Palmetto Ridge High School.

The outcome: The judge granted immunity under “stand your ground.” “The defendant was in a place where he had a right to be and was not acting unlawfully,” Collier County Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie wrote. “He had more than enough reason to believe he was in danger of death or great bodily harm.”

Investigating agency: Collier County Sheriff

Case decision made by: Judge

Trayvon Martin’s death became controversial because circumstances leading up to the shooting cast doubt on who was to blame. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed other “stand your ground” cases for similar circumstances. The Times relied on available information, some of which may not tell the whole story. When the situation was unclear, that was noted.

Yes No Unclear/
disputed
Did the victim initiate the confrontation? Check
Was the victim armed? Check
Was the victim committing a crime that led to the confrontation? Check
Did the defendant pursue the victim? Check
Could the defendant have retreated to avoid the conflict? Check
Was the defendant on his or her property? Check
Did someone witness the attack? Check
Was there physical evidence? Check

Failure To Prevent Bullying Can Prove Costly To School Districts

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Failure To Prevent Bullying Can Prove Costly To School Districts

 

As awareness of school bullying increases, so do parents’ expectations of school districts. With supervisory power over children all day, school districts obviously have a special responsibility to keep children safe from injuries, including harm that can come from other children. School districts are seeing a rise in lawsuits stemming from such injuries.

Recently, a Duval County, Fla., jury returned a $100,000 verdict for a minor who was violently attacked by a known school bully in S.B., by and through her Natural Parent and Guardian, Beverly Cox, v. Duval County School Board. 2013 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3408.
The offender, a 12-year-old female, was known for her violent tendencies. S.B. sustained a left tibial tubercle avulsion fracture requiring three surgeries on her left knee. The jury awarded her $50,000 for her past pain and suffering and $50,000 for her future pain and suffering.

In New Jersey, a student who was paralyzed as a result of an in-school fight obtained a $16,344,327.15 award against the Irvington Board of Education, in A.P., an Infant by his G/A/L Pamela Patterson v. Irvington Board of Education, 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 14933. The attacker had been involved in fights previously and been expelled. Plaintiff claimed that the school negligently failed to protect A.P. from harm and provide safe supervision and care. Plaintiff also asserted that Irvington had a zero tolerance policy for violence, and the school should have ensured the offender was not allowed back into the building. Irvington was found 80% at fault, while the offender was found 20% at fault.

Likewise, a school district was found liable for harm that came to a student who was attacked on the playground, sustaining an arm fracture with nerve damage in Heidenberg v. Hillel School. 1 Exp. Wit. 230988. A $4,000,000 verdict was awarded by a Florida jury. An Indiana federal judge dismissed a school bullying action following a settlement agreement in M.S. v. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, D.H., Brett Herrick, and Colleen K. Herrick, 2011 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 201562. In that case, the parents of the offender were sued as well, and the harm was in the form of mental abuse and intimidation as opposed to physical assault.

A jury can find a school’s negligent supervision and failure to protect particularly egregious in cases involving sexual assaults and/or particularly vulnerable children. A five-year-old girl who was forced to inappropriately touch two classmates and was later expelled obtained a $160,000 settlement with the school district in a Washington Federal Court in A.K., a Minor; and S.K., A.K.’s Mother and Guardian v. Shoreline School District #412, Susanne M. Walker, and Jonathan Nessan, 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 20387. A Florida jury awarded the parents of a special needs child who was sexually assaulted on a school bus $1.7 Million against the Palm Beach County School Board in T.B. and S.W., as Parents and Natural Guardians of Q.B., a Minor, v. The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, 2013 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1270. In a Hawaii Federal Court, a class action was brought by students at a school for the deaf and blind who were sexually assaulted by the “Ringleaders,” a group of students who bullied, terrorized, assaulted, robbed, sodomized, raped, anally raped, gang raped, and sexually attacked other students in Jane Doe, Individually and as Next Friend of John Doe, a minor, and on behalf of a class of persons similarly situated, et al., v. State of Hawaii et al., 2013 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1466.  The case settled for $5,750,000.

However, school districts cannot prevent every incident of injury in every situation. The school district was found not liable in Shirley Holman, as Parent and Natural Guardian of J.H., and Shirley Holman, Individually, v. The School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 18954. In that case, the student and his mother had complained about his being bullied by a group of students on several prior occasions. On the day of the assault, the student had allegedly warned a teacher that he was going to be attacked after class. The attack resulted in multiple fractures requiring surgery. Nonetheless, the jury found that the school district was not negligent.

These cases and many others reflect the rise in litigation against schools ostensibly due to higher expectations from parents who expect their children to be protected from other students. Findings of negligence and higher awards by juries reflect that society has the same expectation.

Litigating Bullying Cases: Holding School Districts and Officials Accountable

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By Adele Kimmel and Adrian Alvarez∗

 

I. Introduction
Bullying is devastating our children. It is hurting, traumatizing, and sometimes even killing our
kids. The consensus among physicians, social scientists, and educators alike is that bullying can
seriously impair the physical and psychological health of victims and their educational
achievement. The short- and long-term psychological impact alone can be highly destructive,
increasing the risk of suicide. Bullying needs to be treated as the serious problem it is, not as a
normal rite of passage to be left alone and endured.
Today we stand at a “tipping point” on bullying. Behaviors we once took for granted are no
longer acceptable. This normative shift is being reflected in state anti-bullying laws and courts
throughout the country. Forty-nine states now have anti-bullying laws that require schools to
take appropriate action to address and prevent bullying.1
Although there is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying, when harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex,
disability or religion, schools are obligated to address it.
Far too often, however, schools are not doing what the law and their own anti-bullying policies
require. In fact, half of our country’s school officials and teachers have not received training on
how to respond to bullying.2
And eight out of every ten times that a child gets bullied at school,
no adult intervenes.3

Public Justice has launched an Anti-Bullying Campaign to change this. Through litigation, we
intend to enforce the law, protect our nation’s children, and hold school districts and officials
accountable for failing to respond to bullying as they should. Because bullying litigation is an
emerging area of law, Public Justice has prepared this primer to help maximize attorneys’
effectiveness when representing bullying victims.4

First, this primer explains what “bullying” is—and what it isn’t. Because there is no definition
of bullying under federal law, and because a wave of recent anti-bullying legislation includes at
least 10 different definitions under state laws, it is helpful to start with a basic understanding of
bullying. This will help attorneys evaluate whether a plaintiff is a victim of bullying—or
something else.
Second, this primer provides an overview of federal legal theories available to school bullying
victims, which are generally much more developed than state legal theories. In addition to
discussing federal legal standards and remedies, this primer will discuss potential obstacles to
recovery, including immunity issues.

More families suing over bullying

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Bullying victims and their families have increasingly turned to the legal system for recourse

Mike Wiser
Published: April 29 2012 | 3:10 pm – Updated: 3 April 2014 | 5:28 pm in

DES MOINES — In the days following her son’s suicide, Jeannie Chambers told a television reporter from Sioux City’s KITV that she wasn’t sure if she wanted charges filed against the classmates who bullied her boy.

Chambers’ son, Kenneth Weishuhn, was 14-years-old when he killed himself April 15. His death inspired rallies and candlelight vigils across the state and reignited a debate about bullying, responsibility and liability.

Chambers’ reason behind her indecisiveness seemed altruistic. She told the interviewer she didn’t want another mother to lose a child.

But bullying victims and their families have increasingly turned to the legal system for recourse. They’re going beyond pushing for criminal charges and civil penalties against bullies: they’re taking on school systems — and winning.

“In general, more of these types of lawsuits are being filed, and the courts are coming out with stronger opinions,” said Sam Wolfe, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center who specializes in civil rights cases.

“There’s also an overall societal consciousness about bullying and the lawsuits in general, so that’s another reason why it could seem they are happening more frequently,” Wolfe said.

Deserved it

In 1994, Jamie Nabozny sued his Ashland, Wis., school district with the help of attorneys from Lambda Legal, claiming the district didn’t do enough to stop other students from harassing him because of his sexual orientation, despite pleas.

In one incident, Nabozny was beaten outside the school library by a group of students, causing internal bleeding that led to a hospital stay for the teen. When he reported the beating to a school official, according to court documents, “the school official supposedly in charge of disciplining, laughed and told Nabozny that Nabozny deserved such treatment because he is gay.”

In 1996, the federal appeals court overturned a lower court decision and found that the school district was liable in the case. The district offered an out-of-court $900,000 settlement, which Nabozny accepted.

It was a landmark case that gave advocacy groups a cudgel to use against non-responsive school districts.

Since then, actions have been brought against school districts in New York, Minnesota and California that resulted in them paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars and/or agreeing to additional staff training and policy changes.

“Lawsuits are a last resort in severe cases where school districts are not living up to their responsibilities,” Andy Mara, public relations manager for the New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, said in an email statement. “But lawsuits indicate that the system is broken, and all parties have already lost in some sense.”

Going forward

Weishuhn was a student at South O’Brien High School in Paullina. School officials have been careful about talking publicly about his death even as the story has drawn national attention.

Read more: http://thegazette.com/2012/04/29/more-families-suing-over-bullying/#ixzz2ziEZ6TWa

Parent Files Lawsuit over School Bullying

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Claims 9-Year-Old Son with Medical Condition Suffered Harassment for Wearing Diapers to Class

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Liliana Alvarez, the mother of a 9-year-old Roosevelt Elementary School student, is suing the Santa Barbara Unified School District because administrators and school staff allegedly neglected to relocate her son to a new campus after he reportedly experienced several years of bullying, emotional abuse, harassment, and discrimination. Alvarez’s son has to wear diapers to school because he suffers from intestinal problems and lacks control over his urinary and bowel movements.

Alvarez became frustrated with Roosevelt after her son’s classmates discovered he wore diapers to kindergarten even though she intended for the information to be kept a secret, according to Alvarez’s lawyer, Matt Clarke with law firm Christman Kelley & Clarke. Kids teased her son at school and shouted things like, “Hey fat brown boy, you stink,” the legal filing reads. Alvarez’s son reportedly came home crying and said he did not want to return to school. Alvarez claims his teachers and school staff failed to intervene and, at times, escalated the problem.

In one incident in 2010, a school medical assistant repeatedly called the plaintiff to come and get her son — referred to as John Doe in legal filings — because he had soiled his pants. But when Alvarez arrived at the school, the court filing reads, school representatives told her that “it was just a mistake,” and that another child had passed gas near her son and yelled, “John Doe pooped in his pants!” As similar incidents continued to occur, Alvarez claims her son told her, “Nobody likes or wants me here in school,” and, “I want to kill myself.”

Alvarez said she eventually went to Superintendent Dave Cash to discuss the problem after claiming Roosevelt Principal Donna Ronzone shirked her duties and, the court filing states, “responded that Plaintiff should be the one taking care of John Doe; come to school with him, stay with him every minute, so that the children would not bully him.” Alvarez claims Cash said he would address the problem but that he and Assistant Superintendent Emilio Handall did not transfer her son to another school and instead simply moved him to a different classroom at Roosevelt.

Click here to read more.

BILL ANALYSIS AND FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT for BILL: CS/CS/SB 548

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The Florida Senate
BILL ANALYSIS AND FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT
(This document is based on the provisions contained in the legislation as of the latest date listed below.)
Prepared By: The Professional Staff of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice

BILL: CS/CS/SB 548
INTRODUCER: Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice; Criminal Justice
Committee; and Senator Simmons
SUBJECT: Bullying
DATE: March 6, 2014

ANALYST STAFF DIRECTOR REFERENCE ACTION
1. Dugger Cannon CJ Fav/CS
2. Clodfelter Sadberry ACJ Fav/CS
3. AP

Please see Section IX. for Additional Information:
COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE – Technical Changes

I. Summary:
CS/CS/SB 548 creates a criminal statute penalizing bullying and aggravated bullying. The newly
created statute provides a second degree misdemeanor penalty1
for bullying and a first degree
misdemeanor penalty2
for aggravated bullying. Cyberbullying is included in each new crime.
The elements of these two new offenses and the definitions provided in the bill are the same as
the elements and definitions in the stalking statute (found to be constitutional by the Florida
Supreme Court in 1995).

The Criminal Justice Impact Conference has determined that the bill will have an insignificant
impact on the need for prison beds.
II. Present Situation:
Bullying Statute
Florida law requires each district school board to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and
harassment in district schools.3
Violation of these policies can result in school disciplinary

1
Punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a potential fine up to $500. Sections 75.082 and 775.083, F.S.
2
Punishable by up to one year in jail and a potential fine up to $1,000.Sections 775.082 and 775.083, F.S.
3
Section 1006.147, F.S.
REVISED:

BILL: CS/CS/SB 548 Page 2

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BILL ANALYSIS AND FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT for BILL: SB 548

Posted on

The Florida Senate
BILL ANALYSIS AND FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT
(This document is based on the provisions contained in the legislation as of the latest date listed below.)
Prepared By: The Professional Staff of the Committee on Criminal Justice

BILL: SB 548
INTRODUCER: Senator Simmons
SUBJECT: Bullying
DATE: February 4, 2014

ANALYST STAFF DIRECTOR REFERENCE ACTION
1. Dugger Cannon CJ Pre-meeting
2. ACJ
3. AP

I. Summary:
SB 548 creates a criminal statute penalizing bullying and aggravated bullying. The newly created
statute provides a first degree misdemeanor penalty1
for bullying and a third degree felony
penalty2
for aggravated bullying. Cyberbullying is included in each new crime. The elements of
these two new offenses and the definitions provided in the bill are the same as the elements and
definitions in the stalking statute (found to be constitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in
1995).
II. Present Situation:

Florida law requires each district school board to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and
harassment in district schools.3
Violation of these policies can result in school disciplinary
actions being taken. Among other things, the law prohibits the bullying or harassment of any
public K-12 student or employee during a public K-12 education program or activity; during a
school-related or school-sponsored program or activity; on a public K-12 school bus; through a
computer, computer system, or computer network that is within the scope of a public K-12

 

 

The law defines “bullying” as systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or
psychological distress on one or more students, which may involve teasing; social exclusion;
threat; intimidation; stalking; physical violence; theft; sexual, religious, or racial harassment;
public humiliation; or destruction of property. It includes “cyberbullying” and defines it as
bullying through the use of specified technology or electronic communications; the creation of a
webpage or weblog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or the knowing
impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages; or the distribution
by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an
electronic medium that is accessible to others.5
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