Can You Sue a School for Bullying?

Teenage being bullied while girl films on her cell phone

 If you’re a victim of college bullying, Warner Law Offices, PLLC, has the answers you need. Find out the common forms of college bullying, when and how to sue a school for bullying, and the state and federal anti-bullying laws protecting you. If you’re interested in seeking compensation, contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation to seek justice and fair compensation. 

Bullying in schools is still prevalent in West Virginia and across the U.S. If you are a victim of bullying in West Virginia, you can seek compensation for your traumatic experiences. West Virginia’s anti-bullying laws and federal statutes, such as Title IX, are designed to protect you. 

The Reality of College Bullying

Approximately 70 percent of students who experienced bullying in high school or elementary school also experienced it in college. More so, 42 percent of college students confess witnessing student bullying, and eight percent admit bullying someone. 

It’s clear that bullying is a daily reality in our institutions of higher learning. We also understand college bullying takes a heavy toll on your well-being.

Our lawyers at Warner Law Offices, PLLC, go out of their way to defend victims of bullying and help them pursue legal claims against their schools and get justice. However, you must substantiate that the actions you are subjected to fit the legal definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying provided by West Virginia’s anti-bullying laws

Forms of College Bullying

Bullying takes many forms, but all are equally traumatic to the one on the receiving end.

Social Bullying

Social bullying occurs when a group of students treat you as an outsider and exclude you from their social groups or activities. A social bully may spread rumors and gossip about your personal life, such as your family background and economic status. This is all designed to cast you as an outsider who doesn’t fit the status quo of a particular social group. 

Hazing

Hazing is when someone subjects you to degrading, demeaning, and dangerous acts as a rite of passage to earn membership in a specific social group or club. Hazing mostly happens within college fraternities, sororities, honor societies, athletic teams, recreational clubs, and other campus organizations. 

In West Virginia, hazing is prohibited by law. Anyone who hazes is guilty of a misdemeanor. If such a person is convicted, they can be jailed for not more than nine months, fined between $100 to $1000, or both. 

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is when other people use online platforms such as social media to threaten, harm, or publicly embarrass you by sending harmful messages or publicizing sensitive private info, such as your intimate photos. Cyberbullies may also impersonate you online by hacking into your social media accounts and sharing damaging information to assassinate your character. 

A 2022 cyberbullying report ranks the prevalence rate of cyberbullying and victimization among university students at 57 to 68 percent. Cyberbullying is prevalent both on and off campus. It’s often more vicious because the safety of being anonymous provides bullies with more confidence.

Verbal Bullying

Verbal bullying happens when other students, faculty, or staff target you with belittling and demeaning words to assert their perceived superiority over you. Verbal bullying can be derogatory and bigoted remarks, sexually inappropriate comments, threats, name-calling, and insults.

Gender-Based Bullying

This occurs when a person—either verbally or through intended gestures—attacks, ridicules, or discriminates against you based on your gender identity or sexual orientation. The bully may be a former intimate partner, random persons of the same or opposite sex, or specific persons retaliating after you’ve rejected their romantic advances. Gender-based bullying often overlaps with sexual harassment

Federal Laws That Protect You Against Bullying in Colleges

At the federal level, there’s no specific anti-bullying law to protect students from bullying in schools. However, most instances of bullying qualify as discriminatory harassment if they are based on your color, sex, religion, national origin, race, age, or disability. 

When bullying is considered discriminatory harassment, the following federal civil rights laws apply:

Can You Sue a School for Bullying from a Student?

Yes. If a fellow student bullies you in any way, you can file a claim against your college under West Virginia’s anti-bullying laws. 

But before taking legal action, you must have followed your school’s administrative process for reporting bullying. If the school receives any federal funding, including federal student loans, and the bullying constitutes discrimination, you may be able to file a complaint under Title IX. Title IX requires all universities that receive federal funding to have clear and comprehensive policies against sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex-based discrimination. These policies must include a designated Title IX coordinator and a clear procedure for filing complaints.

You can move to court if your college fails to address your bullying claims or you’re unsatisfied with their solutions.

Can You Sue a School for Bullying from a Professor, Coach, or Staff?

Yes. A college is liable for the conduct and actions of its employees toward students. Academic bullying by professors or faculty staff may happen in various ways, such as unduly withholding grades or suggesting you drop a class, course, or unit. 

If you participate in sports, a coach may intentionally bully you during training or encourage or overlook hazing from other team members. You can take legal action depending on the form of bullying you experience and the law regulating the bullying actions. For instance, the following laws govern certain forms of bullying:

  • Title IX prohibits sexual abuse or gender-based bullying.
  • Title VI prohibits color- or race-based bullying.
  • The ADA  prohibits bullying based on disability.

What About Sovereign Immunity? Can Your School Walk Away Scot-Free?

Public schools enjoy sovereign immunity protections since they are part of the local government. According to West Virginia code §29-12A-5, sovereign immunity shields government entities and employees from lawsuits resulting from performing their required duties. It helps government officers and employees, such as college staff, execute their responsibilities without the perpetual fear of lawsuits. 

For instance, if a school proves it took sufficient preventative action against your bullying claims, but bullying still happened, your college can claim sovereign immunity. In this case, you may not have a case against the school. 

However, sovereign immunity is waived if you prove negligence of the school’s discretionary acts. For instance, if you reported bullying incidents to your school and nobody took action or school officials didn’t act with reasonable care, the school can be held liable. 

Proving Your School is Liable for Bullying

West Virginia’s anti-bullying rules mandate that all public schools in the state create, encourage, and maintain a no-bullying environment on campus, in lecture halls, and at all school-sponsored activities. Schools may be liable when they fail to take the proper steps to prevent bullying. 

To show your school’s liability for bullying, you must:

  • Have evidence proving you’re a victim of bullying, such as damaged clothes; electronic evidence like screenshots, pictures, text messages, videos; or doctor’s notes.
  • Prove that the bullying took place on college grounds.
  • Prove that bullying occurred consistently, even after reporting it to a school authority.
  • Prove that a college official with the administrative power to stop bullying was aware of your bullying claims but failed to act or didn’t do enough to stop the bullying. 

How Much Can You Sue a School for Bullying?

The amount of financial compensation from bullying lawsuits varies depending on the nature and extent of the harm you suffered. Compensation may include reimbursement for medical expenses, therapy costs, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, and punitive damages. 

When you come to Warner Law Offices, PLLC, we’ll defend you tirelessly until you get fair compensation, whether in court or during an out-of-court settlement. 

We understand no settlement amount will make up for the emotional and psychological damage of bullying. However, fair financial compensation will empower you to seek therapy and counseling to alleviate bullying effects faster. 

With luck, your case will also serve as a wake-up call to colleges nationwide to ensure such behavior does not create new victims who suffer at the hands of bullies.

When Should You Come to Warner Law Offices, PLLC?

If you’re a victim of college bullying by a student, professor, coach, or staff member at your school, Warner Law Offices, PLLC, is here to help you seek legal redress. Our lawyers are experts at handling all types of bullying cases against West Virginia colleges and universities. 

As soon as you experience college bullying, contact our office. Together, we can find the best way forward.

No one should go through such an experience alone. At Warner Law Offices, PLLC, we pay special attention to bullying and discrimination lawsuits because we know the emotional and psychological damage it causes victims. We’ll treat your case with all the care, expertise, and urgency it deserves so you can start enjoying your college life and study stress-free. 

Call us at 304-345-6789 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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Bobby Warner

Bobby has received many accolades throughout the years from both his peers in the legal community, as well as the media. The National Trial Lawyers association named Bobby a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and he has been selected as a Member of the Nation’s Top One Percent. Additionally, he has been named a Best Attorneys of America by Rue Ratings, which also named Warner Law Offices to its Best Law Firms of America.