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NJ Civil Settlements

Manasquan school board paid out $75,000 to settle a high schooler’s claim that he was incessantly bullied.

On August 4, 2016, the Manasquan (Monmouth County) Board of Education agreed to pay a high school student and his parents $75,000 to settle the family’s claim that school officials did not do enough to protect him from harassment and bullying inflicted by other students.

According to the lawsuit, the student attended private school until his sophomore year and enrolled in Manasquan High School in the summer of 2014.  Despite a medical condition that entitled to boy to a “504 Plan,” school officials did not provide an adequate 504 Plan, according to court filings.  Also, the boy’s parents claimed that they specifically asked school officials not to put their son in the same classes with students who bullied him while he was in private school.

The student claimed that he “experienced substantial phycological and behavioral distress” on the first day of school “due to the relentless bulling and harassment about his medical condition by the same perpetrators who had harassed him in private school and were then attending Manasquan High School.”

Despite their finding that the student had been the victim of two harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents, school officials allegedly “took no action to minimize [the boy’s] contact with those classmates or to prevent harassment, intimidation and/or bullying from taking place.

The student and his parent claim that the bullying was so severe that the boy had to withdraw from Manasquan High School in October 2014 and complete his high school education in several schools, some of which charged tuition.  According to the suit, the boy continued to suffer emotional issues as a result of the bullying as of March 2016, when the lawsuit was filed.

Before releasing the lawsuit and settlement agreement,  Manasquan School District’s records custodian, Tara Hudson, redacted the boy’s and his parents’ names from both documents. But, if one looks up the docket number on the New Jersey Superior Court’s Civil Case Public Access System, the full names of both parents and the student are available.

The case bears New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. MON-L-1675-15 and the family’s attorney was Teresa L. Moore of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the family’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. All that is known for sure is that the Manasquan school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the family $75,000 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