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NJ Civil Settlements

Pennsauken school board paid out $500,000 to settle lawsuit filed by high school student who was slashed across her face on the school bus.

On June 15, 2017, the Pennsauken Board of Education (Camden County) agreed to pay $500,000 to a high school student who claimed that another student slashed her “across her face with a bladed weapon” on June 19, 2014 while she was on her school bus waiting to be taken home.  The alleged slasher, who also claimed damages in the suit, appeared to receive nothing.

In her suit, the female high school student identified only by her initials D.O. said that school officials were aware of the slasher’s violent tendencies because the same assailant attacked her on school property two weeks earlier and that school officials had a video recording of that attack.  D.O. claimed that school officials ignored her “repeated pleas for protection.”

According to a January 15, 2016 Courier Post article, D.O.’s accused attacker, identified in court papers by her initials S.C.A., sought damages from the school district because she claimed “she was the victim of unchecked bullying.”  According to the article, S.C.A. claimed that D.O. was a “ringleader” for bullies who had targeted S.C.A.  While the redactions make it impossible to tell for sure, a July 17, 2017 release shows that someone–probably S.C.A.–released her claims in exchange for no payment.

Principal Tameka Matthews and Assistant Principal Thomas Honeyman were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The case is captioned D.O. a minor by her guardian at litem, M.O. v. Pennsauken High School, et al, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-361-15 and D.O.’s attorney was Norman M. Hobbie of Eatontown.  Case documents are on-line here

None of D.O.’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. All that is known for sure is that the Pennsauken school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the girl $500,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project