“The Muslim is he or she from whose tongue and hand fellow beings are safe.” The Holy Prophet Muhammad
In a groundbreaking case that puts school bullies and their parents on notice, a Superior Court judge has ruled that two Hunterdon County school districts may file suit against students who torment their peers.
Attorneys involved in the case say the decision by Judge Yolanda Ciccone — the assignment judge for Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties — could spur similar suits across the state.
They say it also delivers a strong message that parents may be held legally liable when their children taunt, tease or physically harass classmates.
“This raises important public and social policy issues,” said Robert Gold, a Morristown lawyer who represents the Hunterdon Central Regional School District. “Parents have to monitor the conduct of their children, and when parents are made aware that their children are behaving badly, they have to take some affirmative steps to guide them.”
Gold called the case the first of its kind under New Jersey’s tough new anti-bullying law.
In her decision, Ciccone said Hunterdon Central and the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District could name 13 students and their parents as third-party defendants in a bullying suit.
The alleged victim, identified by the initials V.B., sued the districts under the bullying law last year, alleging they failed to stop harassing behavior despite years of complaints. V.B., now believed to be 18, did not sue the individual students.
Gold and Jeffrey Shanaberger, the attorney for the Flemington-Raritan district, argued in court that the alleged bullies and their parents should at least share in the culpability if V.B. proves his claims at trial.
The districts deny they failed to take action.