Massachusetts High School Faces $2 Million Lawsuit for Allowing Bullying

| by Sarah Siskind
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Isabella “Belle” Hankey filed a $2 million federal civil rights lawsuit on Monday against the towns of Concord and Carlisle, the Concord-Carlisle school district and three school officials. Hankey was bullied mercilessly for two and a half years while the school took little action. She claims the bullying led to a pulmonary embolism.

According to the Boston Globe, Hankey, now 18, suffered abuse for several years. This much is indisputable. In February of 2012, Hankey found feces smeared on her car with a sexual slur was carved into her car exterior. Death threats were scrawled on her car and around the school.

When Hankey returned to school in the fall, she enrolled in a program for her senior year that met in a building separate from the main campus. School officials were uncooperative with her family’s demands for an investigation, and they sent out a school-wide email asking for information on the culprits. After requesting the records for the ongoing investigations, the Hankeys were told the assistant principle, Alan Weinstein, had destroyed all the records after resigning in June 2012. Only by September, several months after the family asked, did the school set up parking lot surveillance.

In October, Hankey was hospitalized because of a pulmonary embolism that she claims is directly related to the emotional stress from bullying.

Hankey’s legal team indicts the schools and towns for an assortment of legal offenses all suggesting neglect and liability. The lawsuit alleges violations of the state Civil Rights Act, the state Declaration of Rights, Hankey’s 14th Amendment right to due process, and the recent Massachusetts Bullying Law, passed in 2010.

However, as egregious as the abuse was, it is not automatically evident that the bullying caused the embolism. Neither blood clots nor pulmonary embolisms are commonly induced by emotional stress. This does not exculpate the towns or districts from negligence but it greatly decreases the stakes of their liability. The suit probably charges two towns, the districts and the individuals to spread out the damages since the school districts would not have the funds to fork over $2 million in damages. More unfortunate still, the culprits have not been caught and are not charged in the suit.

Sources: Boston Globe