Hazing and Bullying May Land You in a Lawsuit

No matter the age, any injury to your child is a personal injury, but it also may qualify as a legal action when it involves bullying, and your son or daughter gets hurt. The compassionate personal injury attorneys at Silverman, McDonald & Friedman feel strongly about protecting the children in our communities from coming to harm. Schedule an appointment for your free consultation today in our Wilmington, Seaford, or Newark office to see how we can help.

If you’re in elementary, junior high, or high school, it’s called bullying. If you’re in college, it’s called hazing. Both of these terms describe similar behavior that’s harmful to the mental and physical well-being of children. Engaging in these activities at the expense of a child’s safety can also be the catalyst for a personal injury claim.

What exactly is bullying?

Most people have either experienced being picked on at school, or have at least been personally aware of classmates who were subjected to ridicule and harassment as kids. Maybe a child was called harsh names or was literally pushed around merely for being perceived as different from others. Regardless of the reason for choosing a target, in many cases, these actions have spun severely out of control, causing children to go as far as taking their own lives, or suffering long-term emotional damage. Some of these cases have resulted in injury and wrongful death claims.

  • An 8-year-old student committed suicide after a pattern of bullying by his third-grade classmates went unreported to his parents. The final straw for the young man appears to have been a teacher failing to take action after he reported a second bullying event two days after being assaulted in a school bathroom. His parents are suing the school district for wrongful death based on failure to notify them of numerous bullying instances.
  • A Los Angeles mother is suing her son’s school district over a bullying incident that left him with permanent brain damage and spinal injuries. A 14-year-old student choked her 12-year-old son, causing the catastrophic injuries. The lawsuit is alleging that the school was aware of the student being an aggressor and being a danger to other children at the school, yet the administrators did nothing to prevent further attacks.

Hazing still exists despite the negative press

Hazing is very closely related to bullying and is routinely heard about in the context of college sororities and fraternities. “Hell Week,” aptly named, still exists on many university campuses and is deemed as a rite of passage into what becomes a family of lifelong college friends. Thousands of students are drawn to these Greek organizations every year out of a need to belong, continuing a family legacy, or because these groups are viewed as offering solid professional connections later in life.

  • A Delaware State University student died earlier this year when he lost control of his vehicle due to lack of sleep from being hazed by the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. The student who died was a military veteran who was given “missions” by the fraternity, keeping him up all hours of the day and night. He was prevented from getting proper rest before getting behind the wheel of his car, which cost him his life and injured several others. Prior to the accident, the man’s girlfriend reported that he was being hit with objects, had hot wax dripped onto his back, and was required to drink shots of alcohol.
  • While most hazing tends to occur in fraternities, University of Central Florida sorority Pi Beta Phi was suspended after forcing pledges to take drugs and alcohol until they passed out. At the same time, a Cal State Fullerton student died from alcohol poisoning in a hazing incident at another sorority, Chi Sigma Phi. The young woman’s parents have filed a wrongful death suit against the sorority and against the university.

State law provides a good roadmap to determine school negligence

Delaware deals with school bullying and the responsibility of school reporting head on. Policies must be established for every school, including designating an ombudsman to investigate and handle bullying complaints. Delaware Code § 4112A(2) provides that an ombudsman’s job includes investigating complaints “regarding the alleged failure of school officials to report criminal offenses […] and incidents of bullying as required under § 4164.” Section 4164 mandates that schools must report all complaints of bullying – substantiated or not – to the Department of Education within five working days. Additionally, the school is required to provide the parents of the targeted student with the names of every student involved in the incident.

Hazing has actually been criminalized as a Class B misdemeanor in Delaware. Additionally, institutions of higher education are required to maintain policies on anti-hazing and include penalties for violations.

If schools don’t comply with the law when it comes to creating and enforcing anti-bullying and hazing policies, they may be held liable for injuries to your child, along with other entities that failed to oversee compliance of rules intended to keep our children safe.

Silverman, McDonald & Friedman is built on the dedication of skilled personal injury attorneys who know how to fight for the rights of our injured Delaware clients. If you have been injured, you may be entitled to recover expenses and other financial assistance to help you recuperate, but time is limited. Call  302-888-2900 today to request your free case consultation in our Wilmington, Seaford, or Newark offices, or reach out to us through our contact form to tell us your story.