Friday, September 20, 2013

Cause of Action Rejected Under Connecticut's Anti-Bullying Statute

In 2002, the Connecticut Legislature enacted an anti-bullying statute that directed schools to come up with policies and procedures to address and prevent bullying.  In the wake of high profile bullying incidents that led to the victims' suicide or other serious harm, Connecticut reenacted and strengthened the statute in 2011.  The current statute broadly defines bullying and harassment and provides that "Each local and regional board of education shall develop and implement a safe school climate plan to address the existence of bullying in its schools." Conn. Gen. Statute 10-222d. It further specifies 17 different responsibilities, structures, and procedures that must be included in the plan and complied with. Id.  The statute does not include an explicit cause of action.

Some prior courts had addressed the existence of cause of action under the old version of the statute, but Mazzo v. Town of Fairfield Bd. of Educ., 2013 WL 4872203 (Sup. Ct. of Conn. 2013), appears to be a case of first impression regarding the newly enacted version of the statute. Plaintiff's primary argument appeared to be that Conn. Gen. Statute 10-222l evidences intent to create of cause of action because, while that section speaks to immunity, it conditions that immunity on good faith compliance with the statute.  In other words, plaintiff argues that a basic failure to attempt to comply with the Act is not granted immunity and, thus, is actionable under the act.  

The court, however, rejected plaintiffs argument, relying heavily on a legislative statement from the 2002 version of the statute, in which Rep. Green stated:

I appreciate Representative Mushinsky, where she really wants us to be aware of this issue. It is not a punitive kind of thing. I would hope the parents don't target out teachers, don't target school systems to say that we have all these acts of bullying, the teachers or the administrators are not doing their job. That is not what the intent of the bill is. The intent of this bill is to provide safe environments for our young people. It is not to look for blame on anybody's part. It is to come up with policies. It is to come up with some ideas to make sure that we can have kids not only respect themselves, but respect others.

45 H.R. Proc., Pt.10, 2002 Session, p. 3212.

For more information on the history and details of the law, see here.

Bullying and Harassment, Cases, State law developments | Permalink


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