Parents of Student K.1 / SAU #53 – Epsom School District
In a victory upholding the efficacy and enforceability of New Hampshire’s anti-bullying statute, GLAD represented an Epsom, New Hampshire student whose high school failed to address vicious cyberbullying by several classmates.
The student was tormented by hateful, homophobic messages on the social networking sites Formspring and Facebook. Some even taunted him to kill himself.
When the student’s father learned about the cyberbullying, he immediately placed calls and sent emails to the school’s vice principal. But school officials offered no real response. Rather than deal with the bullies, the vice principal had the student meet alone with one of his tormentors in a closed room for 30 minutes.
The student’s father continued to ask school officials to create a plan to deal with the bullies and protect his son. But the school repeatedly failed to respond. School officials and the school board refused to acknowledge what was happening as bullying.
GLAD, along with co-counsel Brian Boyle, MJ Edwards and Neil Jacobs of WilmerHale pursued the family’s case to the Board of Education. The hearing officer assigned to the case took the position, as had the school board, that there was no jurisdiction in this situation because New Hampshire’s 2010 anti-bullying statute does not include a specific right to appeal.
The school and the school board moved to have the case dismissed, but the Board of Education agreed unanimously with GLAD’s position that the inability to pursue a case like this would cut the legs out from under the newly enacted anti-bullying statute.
The school board reached a settlement with the family requiring the school to develop a satisfactory safety plan for the student and mandatory training for the school staff and administrators.