KEYSTONE CROSSROADS – A case that could set statewide precedent in holding school districts liable for ongoing student-on-student bullying has hit a barrier.
The parents of a child who was allegedly bullied and raped inside a Philadelphia school cannot sue the School District of Philadelphia for gender or race discrimination, the Pa. Commonwealth Court has ruled.
A three-judge panel concluded last month that the boy’s parents did not appeal quickly enough to the state’s Human Relations Commission, a prerequisite for bringing a gender or race discrimination case.
Law requires plaintiffs to file an administrative complaint with the commission within 180 days of the last alleged incident. In this case, the complaint came more than two years after the family says the actions took place.
Lawyers for the plaintiff argued the window for filing a complaint should be different if the case involves a minor. The Commonwealth Court disagreed. The plaintiff’s lawyer, David Berney, said in a press release the family will appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In late 2011, a trio of students bullied and harassed a fourth-grade student at William C. Bryant Elementary school in West Philadelphia, according to the boy’s mother. Lawyers for the family say the bullies called the boy homosexual slurs and used racially charged language. Ultimately the bullies sexually assaulted the boy, an incident for which they were arrested and charged by Philadelphia police.
The family sued the school district, alleging Bryant staff failed to adequately protect the fourth-grader despite repeated red flags. Because of the nature of the bullying, they sued under the state’s anti-discrimination law.