The parents of a Stroudsburg Junior High School student are blaming the school district for the alleged bullying of their son, though their attorney admits it will be hard to calculate potential damages.
The parents say the district failed to protect their child while he was attending the school and are represented by attorney Joseph Montgomery. The child, identified as F.W., is a student with unspecified disabilities.
According to his parents, Saida Morsingo and Simon Wagichu, F.W. was a victim of repeated and constant bullying and was the recipient of an assault in December. His assault was recorded and posted on Facebook, which provoked more bullying through the Internet, they say.
The family is now seeking damages for what happened. But calculating the rewards is difficult in situations such as this, their attorney says.
“The damages are not something that you can calculate so easily. The damage calculation is based on what the students was deprived of," Montgomery said. "He [F.W.] was deprived of an education benefit for the time he was not in school or for the time he was in school without the appropriate services.”
F.W.’s parents believe that education was not the only thing of which he was deprived. They believed that the school failed to act properly in protecting their child and, since he was one of two participants suspended for the incident, they believed the school failed to provide him with an appropriate and safe place of education. F.W.'s parents also suspected that his punishment was influenced by race.
“It is important to remember that a free appropriate public education is not just the academic aspect,” Montgomery said. “A lot of schools will say, 'Oh well, he’s doing good in school so we don’t have to worry about the other stuff.’ It goes beyond academics. It’s also social, emotional, and behavioral. It’s the whole package.”
While F.W. excelled academically in his classes, he had trouble picking up social cues and does not understand when others are treating him poorly, Montgomery says.
He also believes that schools need to be more diligent and aware of problems facing children with disabilities.
“It is important because a lot of children with disabilities don’t even realize that they are being made fun of. I think it’s the school’s responsibility to really look for the signs and look to see if the students aren’t as engaged as they once were and try to figure out what is going on.
"If it is a student with a disability, you can’t always ask them ‘Have you been bullied?’ because a lot of times, their perception is different from many other students.”
Montgomery said the district recently changed its bullying policy definitions to include events that occur in the school setting or outside the school setting.
“They [the schools] just can’t say ‘because it didn’t originate in the school building, it’s not their responsibility.’ So I think schools need to have a pragmatic mind as far as what is going on outside the school building.”
Montgomery has a site dedicated to providing answers and resources for parents and students alike. It can be found here.