Monday, March 15, 2010

what price one's safety?

Bullying victim wins $290,000 payout
From the Herald Sun

A TEENAGE girl has won one of Victoria's biggest payouts for bullying at school after years of harassment left her a physical and emotional wreck.

The $290,000 compensation payout by the Education Department came in an out-of-court settlement approved by the Supreme Court.

After one incident the school administrator asked the victim's parents to come and collect her as they could not guarantee her safety.

Between 2006 and 2007, the girl's tormentors spat at her, put chewing gum in her hair, threw chairs at her and emptied her locker across the floor.

The last straw came when one of the bullies threatened to shoot her, prompting her family to move from Kerang.

In her Supreme Court claim the girl's injuries were detailed as psychological disturbance, panic disorder, insomnia, an eating disorder, stress-related psoriasis and suicidal thoughts.

An expert estimated that her psychiatric injury exceeded 10 per cent.

Solicitor Kim Bainbridge, of Garden & Green Lawyers of Swan Hill, said the payout sent a clear message to schools that they have a duty to protect students from bullying.

He said the parents pleaded with the school principal to protect their daughter, and held regular discussions with teachers and the school chaplain.

But the school failed to heed the complaints and did not have established practices to deal with bullying or to discipline the perpetrators.

"The cost, emotionally and financially, on the family has been horrific," Mr Bainbridge said.

"It got to the stage where her parents had to drive her to and from school, pick her up each lunchtime and drive her back from school after lunch.

"There were serious threats to her safety, her friends were threatened and she endured 18 months of verbal and physical abuse.

"Her parents noticed dramatic changes to their daughter's behaviour and personality, and eventually she revealed the full extent of the bullying."

The girl was so traumatised the Herald Sun has chosen not to name her.

Mr Bainbridge said even after she moved to another school the abuse continued through email and social networking sites.

There was no indication of why the girl, now 17, became a target for the bullies, he said.

He said the parents simply ran out of options and were forced to move.

any thoughts? aside from the inept handling of this by the school I'm more intrigued by another question: what is considered a 'fair' amount when it comes to compensating a victim? I know this is not the thrust of the article but it's something worth putting out there. at the end of the day when the courts make a judgement acknowledging that schools are negligent, what do people think about how the impact of such trauma is measured?

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