The family of a 12-year-old in Texas who suffered a severe rope burn at the hands of her classmates filed a case last month seeking $3 million in damages. The family is seeking millions not only to cover the costs of medical expenses, disfigurement, and emotional turmoil from the injury, but also to punish those involved in the injury for mishandling out of control child bullying.
K.P., the young girl who was injured, was in sixth grade at Live Oak Classical School in Texas. She attended the $7,000 a-year school on scholarship. K.P.’s family thought that the transfer from a public school to a private school would provide the sixth-grader with better educational opportunities, but K.P. soon began to report instances of verbal and physical bullying from her fellow students. School administration was dismissive of the reports, downplaying the bullying as normal childhood behavior and saying that it was K.P.’s behavior that didn’t seem to fit in with the other students.
When the sixth grade class took an overnight camping trip, K.P.’s mother asked to chaperone, but was denied. The school assured her that they would look out for K.P. As soon as the students arrived at Blanco County campsite, they found a rope swing and began to take turns on the swing without adult supervision. When K.P. got on the swing, three boys pulled a loose rope around her neck and pulled her to the ground, causing a severe rope burn around her neck. They did not act surprised at the injury, and no students helped K.P. or called for an adult. K.P. is black, and the three boys are white.
The adult supervisors for the trip did not notify K.P.’s parents about the injury. Supervisors applied Vaseline to the injury and let K.P. continue with the day’s activities. Her parents did not know about the injury until they picked K.P. up the next night at the school. When they confronted the supervisors about the injury they were again told it was just a mild rope burn that resulted from child’s play.
K.P.’s parents took her to the hospital where doctors noted the severity of the burn, and called police to document the injury and investigate the cause. K.P. was taken out of the school, and as news of her case spread, other parents came forward about bullying problems at the school.
According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, every year about one in four students in the United States reports being bullied. Most children never report bullying, so this statistics represents only about 36% of all bullying. Studies show that when schools create programs to prevent bullying, bullying on campuses decreases by 25%. The most common reasons for bullying are looks, body shape, and race.
Students who endure bullying suffer emotional and physical pain. But bullies and their instigators (including school officials who turn the other way) can be held responsible. States differ on what they consider bullying and where bullying laws apply. In some states, private schools like Live Oak Classical School are protected from state bullying laws.