Tuesday, September 3, 2013
The Second Circuit in KF ex rel CF v. Monroe Woodbury Central School Dist, 2013 WL 4525209 (2d Cir. 2013), held that the school district was not deliberately indifferent to two years of peer-on-peer bullying, which included two instances of sexual assault. The victim became extremely anxious and began harming herself. The key fact in avoiding liability was that the young woman kept the incidents to herself. Thus, the school was not on notice of them and could not have been deliberately indifferent under controlling Supreme Court precedent. Assuming the court recounted the facts correctly in its opinion and that the school did not obtain notice through some means unknown to the court and the girl's parents, the court probably got this one right. The question then is why this case was brought.My suspicion is that the problem arises from the insensitivity the school may have shown after it gained notice. While the district immediately reacted with options to address the problem and no further harassment occurred after this time, the first option presented was for the girl to transfer to another school district. I have no idea whether this is a psychologically beneficial option for a victim. It may be. But it sends the wrong message to the parents: something is wrong with your child and we want to send her elsewhere. I have seen this occur in other districts and parents of the victim do not take the "lets transfer" option well, unless the parents come up with the idea themselves. When one's child has been victimized while in the care of the school, parents want and need to hear something else. In short, complying with the law and managing situations in a sensitive way that avoid litigation are two different things. It may be that this district did the former but not the latter.