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Settlement with School Board in Case of Student Subjected to Alleged Harassment, Bullying

TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara announced today that the Board of Education in Emerson, Bergen County, has agreed to pay a former student $130,000 to resolve allegations the school district did not effectively address alleged verbal, physical and cyber harassment of the student that went on for years.

Under a settlement agreement finalized this week, the Emerson school district makes no admission of wrongdoing.

“This is a fair outcome that resolves troubling allegations – a young man subjected to persistent harassment by other students over a period of six years. Hopefully, this case will serve as a reminder to others that the State takes this issue very seriously,” said Attorney General Dow.

”This is an important settlement,” said Director Sashihara, “not only because it resolves the case without litigation that could be protracted and emotionally difficult for the victim, but because the settlement incorporates action by the district to ensure this does not happen again.”

Named as sole Respondent in a Finding of Probable Cause issued by the Division in November 2010, the Emerson Board of Education oversees a district made up of three schools, including two elementary schools and the Emerson Junior/Senior High School.

According to the Finding of Probable Cause, the district did not deal adequately with continued harassment of the male student – identified as J.C., Jr. – that began in 2002 and continued through 2007. The harassment occurred while the victim was attending junior and senior high school in Emerson.

The alleged harassment was reported to school officials on numerous occasions. It included alleged name-calling and derogatory comments, as well as physical assaults and threats of violence. In one instance, students allegedly created a page on a social networking Web site that served as a forum for disparaging remarks. Altogether, the victim’s parents reported at least 17 instances of harassment to school district officials.

In addition to the $130,000 pay-out to the victim, the settlement calls for Emerson schools to create clear protocols for the reporting and investigation of harassment, intimidation and bullying complaints, provide adequate training of staff, implement policies and programs to prevent bullying, and ensure that teachers, administrators and students are fully aware of those policies.

Director Sashihara thanked Deputy Attorney General James Michael, Deputy Attorney General Megan Harris and Conciliator Ana Limo-Magras for their work in resolving the Emerson Board of Education matter.


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