Heyl Royster


Two Recent Cases Focus on Liability for Bullying in School

On March 10, 2014, Illinois’ Fourth District Appellate Court dismissed a student’s lawsuit that claimed his high school failed to provide a safe environment against bullying (Malinksi v. Grayslake Community High School District 127, 2014 IL App (2d) 130685-U.) The student had reported to the school counselor and dean that he had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse at school. He alleged that the school failed to provide a safe environment by ignoring his complaints of bullying which was willful and wanton conduct. The court found that the school district was immune from liability under the Tort Immunity Act, and dismissed the lawsuit. The court specifically found that school personnel decisions and actions regarding instances of student bullying are discretionary acts and therefore protected under the Tort Immunity Act.

In a recent case out of New Jersey, V.B. v. Flemington Raritan Regional Board of Education, NO. HNT-L-95-13, N.J. Super. Ct. Law (March 12, 2014), a judge held that parents of eleven students could be named as defendants in a school bullying lawsuit. The student and his mother claim that he was bullied and tormented by other students from fourth grade until he graduated early, as a junior. They allege that the school district failed to take appropriate action to prevent the misconduct by fellow students. The school district filed a motion seeking to add, as co-defendants, the parents of eleven students who were accused of harassing the student who brought the lawsuit against the school district. This first-of-its-kind ruling has the potential to impact the outcome of bullying cases throughout the country, including those filed in Illinois.

The final ruling in V.B. v. Flemington Raritan Regional Board of Education could impact a school district’s ability to seek contribution from other parties and minimize their liability in similar bullying cases. We will monitor this case and keep you apprised of the outcome.