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Can a School District Be Sued After a Bullied Student’s Suicide?


There is a saying in legal circles. “You can sue anyone, for anything, anytime.” Like many things in life, that’s an oversimplification. It might be true that someone in Santa Monica can initiate a suit by simply filing the papers with the court. However, there are other factors to consider before taking action, such as the strength of the case. Has any effort been made to negotiate a settlement? If you win your case, will you be able to collect the judgment?

To get answers to these and other questions it’s important to speak with experienced legal counsel. This can be particularly important in cases where emotions are running high. Anger and desire for justice can be hard to contain, but they need to be to avoid possibly futile action.

Identifying the Line in a Wrongful Death Claim

A measured approach is perhaps hardest after the loss of a loved one. That certainly could be said if the individual is school-aged, takes his or her own life, and bullying is suspected as a contributing factor. If the school knew bullying was going on, it is reasonable to expect that administrators took steps to end it. If steps were taken but didn’t seem to work, is it possible to seek to hold the school liable for the death?

The answer is, perhaps. As we have already noted, there can be qualifications. It is necessary to be able to show that the school was negligent in some way. California law also sets out different processes for suing schools depending on if they are private or public. Public schools typically enjoy greater protection from action because of governmental immunity. That means the district can’t be sued unless a court allows it.

The right forms must be filed and the explanation of the injury must include any possible theory of liability you intend to allege. Without that, the court will dismiss the claim out of hand. Proper assessment and preparation are crucial.

Bullying has been around for centuries – often seen as just part of growing up. That’s no longer the case. But defining limits of the behavior and holding the organizations accountable remains a challenge.