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Random Notes on NJ Government

Student sues school district for failing to protect her against bullying that started when she was in third grade.

On March 15, 2018, a student, identified only her initials M.S., sued the New Hanover Township (Burlington County) public school district for failing to take action against students who, over several years, called her “whitey,” “white b*tch” and “Lesbian” and physically assaulted her.

According to the lawsuit, M.S. v. New Hanover Township School, Docket No. BUR-L-548-18, other students began to harass M.S. when she began attending New Hanover Township Elementary School as a third grader in September 2013. According to the suit, other students called her names, kicked her in the stomach, hit her in the face with a water bottle and a ball and threatened to beat her up.

M.S.’s mother claimed that she notified Principal Scott Larkin several times about the abuse and even attended a meeting with Larkin and a State Trooper in February 2014 to no avail.  She said that she followed up with then Superintendent Dr. Cassandra Brown and even addressed the Board of Education at a public meeting but “nothing was done to stop the harassment, and the harassment continued.”

According to the complaint, the abuse spilled over to the M.S.’s mother. M.S.’s mother said that she called the police in May 2017 when M.S., who then was a sixth-grader, was allegedly told by other students that the playground was “now a punching ground” and another student chased M.S. down the street. According to the lawsuit, the mother of the alleged attacker came to M.S.’s mother’s home and called her a “white b*tch” and “white trash.”  The alleged attacker then reportedly wrote a social media post that mocked M.S.’s mother for being afraid of her mother.

The lawsuit claims that a teacher, Ms. Peterla, told M.S.’s mother in June 2017 that “If your daughter would just keep her mouth shut, we could avoid all these problems.”  According to the lawsuit, M.S.’s mother took both M.S. and her younger sister out of school and is now homeschooling them.

M.S. is being represented by Drake P. Bearden, Jr. of Mount Laurel.

The allegations in the lawsuit are just that–allegations.  Nothing has yet been proven and the burden of proof lies with M.S. and her mother.

By John Paff

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