1983 Claims And Student Abuse

A recent Brown University study showed that in the United States, approximately 90,000 adolescents or children per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms due to student-against-student assaults at school. The study indicated that approximately 10 percent of these assaults involved multiple perpetrators. An estimated 12 percent of these assaults resulted in fractures. Tragically, about 10 percent of these school abuse incidents resulted in a brain injury to the student.

School districts, school administrators and teachers are not strictly liable for student-against-student injuries at school. However, school districts do have some responsibility to respond to hazardous situations, including students with a history of violence, in order to prevent foreseeable injuries due to assault.

Abusive Words Do Hurt, And They Are Illegal In Missouri

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is a traditional saying promoted for children receiving verbal abuse from other children. The benefit of this saying is that it affirms that the recipient of such abuse is not controlled by the abuser. It has often been used to rebuff a verbal abuser. The limitations of the "sticks and stones" mindset, however, are obvious today for children and adolescents who have been taught by our culture that peer approval is of utmost importance. Telling oneself that psychological abuse is harmless may not be sufficient to insulate oneself from the harmful effects of mental abuse from peers, particularly for children and adolescents.

Specific Laws Against Student-On-Student Assault And Abuse In Missouri

  • Section 565.090 of the Missouri Revised Statutes makes it a crime called "harassment" to "without good cause engage in any other act with the purpose to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to another person, cause such person to be frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed, and such person's response to the act is one of a person of average sensibilities considering the age of such person."
  • Section 160.775 requires each public school district in Missouri to implement a policy to protect students from harassment and assault by reporting each incident involving abusive conduct at school, which, if done by an adult, would constitute criminal harassment to the appropriate law enforcement agency. This statute was passed recently and imposes a very strong duty on the part of public school districts to protect students from not only physical assault but also much verbal harassment.

Federal Law Against Gender Discrimination And Harassment In Missouri Schools

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits grade schools through university schools that receive federal funds from discriminating against students based on gender. Sexual harassment has been deemed to be gender harassment per Title IX. Schools that do receive federal funds must take reasonable efforts to prevent sexual harassment of students, including such harassment by other students. If a school is reasonably indifferent to such harassment, it may be held liable for violating Title IX, if the harassment was severe, pervasive and persistent.

Federal Law Prohibits Racial Discrimination And Harassment

Title XI is a federal law that prohibits grade schools through universities that receive federal funds from discriminating against students based on race, including racially based harassment. Schools have a duty to respond to unsafe conditions which school personnel are aware of, including dangers to student injuries from assaultive students. Failure to take adequate measures to protect a student who is at risk of assault may impose liability on the school.

Free Consultation With Civil Rights Litigation Lawyer Frank Ledbetter

Ledbetter Law Firm, LLC, takes student rights very seriously and will work hard to get its clients the compensation they deserve. If you or your child has suffered the indignity of a civil rights abuse, you may have a claim for compensation under the 1983 claims process. Call us at 314-925-0239 or toll free at 800-704-3214 to schedule a free consultation with attorney Frank Ledbetter.