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PATTON v. BICKFORD

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Court of Appeals of Kentucky.

Sheila PATTON, Administratrix of the Estate of Stephen Lawrence Patton, Appellant v. Davida BICKFORD; Paul Fanning; Ronald “Sonny” Fentress; Jeremy Hall; Angela Mullins; Lynn Handshoe; and Greg Nichols, Appellees.

No. 2012–CA–000598–MR.

— July 19, 2013

Before CLAYTON, LAMBERT, and VANMETER, Judges. Vanessa B. Cantley, Louisville, KY, for Appellant. Michael J. Schmitt, Jonathan C. Shaw, Paintsville, KY, for Appellees Davida Bickford; Paul Fanning; and Ronald “Sonny” Fentress. Neal Smith, Pikeville, KY, for Appellees Jeremy Hall; Angela Mullins; Lynn Handshoe; and Greg Nichols.

OPINION

Sheila Patton, as administratrix of Stephen Lawrence Patton’s estate (referred to as “the Estate”), appeals from the Floyd Circuit Court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Davida Bickford (referred to as “Principal”), Paul Fanning and Ronald “Sonny” Fentress (collectively referred to as “Superintendents”), and Jeremy Hall, Angela Mullins, Lynn Handshoe, and Greg Nichols (collectively referred to as “Teachers”). For the following reasons, we affirm.

The Estate filed the underlying wrongful death action against the Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents, in their individual capacities, alleging negligence in failing to supervise Stephen Patton and other students at Allen Central Middle School (“ACMS”). The Estate claims that the Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents failed to comply with ACMS’s and Floyd County School Board’s anti-bullying policies and procedures, which resulted in Stephen’s being subjected to constant bullying, and eventually taking his own life.

The Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted on two grounds: (1) the Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents were entitled to qualified official immunity and (2) Stephen’s act of suicide was an intervening and superseding act which cut off any liability. This appeal followed.

Summary judgment shall be granted only if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, stipulations, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” CR 1 56.03. The trial court must view the record “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment and all doubts are to be resolved in his favor.” Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Serv. Ctr., Inc., 807 S.W.2d 476, 480 (Ky.1991) (citations omitted). Further, “a party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion cannot defeat it without presenting at least some affirmative evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.” Id. at 482 (citations omitted).

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February 08, 2012: Ruling that anti-bullying law is unconstitutional is a relief

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate
mangicaro829@aol.com

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist 
Follow on Twitter
on February 08, 2012 at 8:21 AM

By Joy Pullmann

It is rather a relief for New Jersey school districts and students that a state panel has ruled a new anti-bullying law unfunded, and therefore unconstitutional, because the law itself would have constituted bullying, largely outsourcing it to schools.

The law would require schools to appoint “safety teams” of parents, teachers and staff. Both schools and districts would have to designate or hire “anti-bullying coordinators.” Schools would be required to investigate, within one day, every single incident that could be considered bullying; convene meetings with all the parents of the children involved; and file district and state paperwork. Imagine the enormity of such requirements for schools with dozens or hundreds of children, when even facial expressions can count as “bullying.”

The law would require administrators, parents and school board members to take yearly bullying or suicide prevention training. It would even make schools responsible for bullying that took place off-campus and outside of school hours. It would provide mechanisms to encourage school kids to report each other anonymously to the police. The law includes 18 pages of similarly frightening “required components.”

New Jersey enacted this law in justified horror as a result of a Rutgers University student committing suicide after a roommate allegedly videotaped him with another man. But legislators curiously did not apply their law to Rutgers, instead imposing it on K-12 public schools. Anyone with a conspiratorial bent might think they co-opted people’s emotions to serve a preconceived agenda. Clearly, the Legislature’s response is absurdly overdone and counterproductive.

Advocates of these legal labyrinths tell us they’re necessary to protect children from bullying. Obviously, no one wants children or anyone else to commit suicide or even to be called “stupid,” but these advocates are so blinded by their tears that they cannot see that the solutions they propose perpetuate the problem.

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