Hudson, Michigan—in what could be a landmark decision, a jury has ordered the school district to pay $800,000 to a student who underwent years of bullying by his classmates. According to the original complaint, the student, Dane Patterson, argued that the school failed to protect him from years of bullying, some of which was sexual in nature. Overall, the verdict puts the Hudson area school district, as well as others, on alert that it isn’t enough to simply stop a student from bullying another student once. Instead, it is necessary for there to be continuous efforts to prevent and stop systemic bullying, too.
Patterson experienced the bullying starting in middle school. First, it was simply name- calling or being shoved into the lockers. However, it quickly escalated when Patterson entered high school. In fact, the Patterson family had enough when a naked student rubbed up against Dane in the locker room during his 10th grade school year. There were other sexual-based insults and taunts, too, such as names written on Dane’s notebook or locker. But nothing topped the locker room incident and Dane’s parents knew something had to be done.
In 2005, the Patterson family filed a lawsuit under Title IX of the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, using the sexually tinged harassment as the basis. This week the jury gave the Patterson family some vindication when they ordered the school district to pay the damages to Dane, now 19. More important, anti-bullying experts argue, is that the verdict will send a clear message to schools that they are responsible for sexual harassment and bullying and must keep a constant eye out for such behavior.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.