Childrearing

NJ Judge Agrees If You Raise An Awful Monster Bully You Should Pay For It

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nj judgeA New Jersey judge is allowing parents of alleged bullies to be sued. If the only way to get teenagers to stop acting like abusive jerks is to reach into their parents’ pockets – I guess that’s what is going to have to happen.

The judge is allowing 11 teens and their parents to become third-party defendants. It’s the first time a New Jersey judge has been asked by a school district to add students as defendants in a bullying case.

“As difficult as it is for my client, we’re very pleased with the message that the decision sends,” said Brian Cige, a lawyer for the now-18-year-old plaintiff identified in court documents only by his initial, V.B. “There needs to be personal responsibility for both kids and their parents for their behavior.”

The plaintiff contends he was tormented throughout his time at Hunterdon Central school district – from fourth grade until last year, when he graduated early rather than stick around to be abused by his classmates. He claims to have repeatedly asked for help from school officials – help he never got.

“I think that this is going to have a serious impact on public policy and social policy in terms of how parents raise their children and how they supervise their children,” said Robert Gold, the lawyer for Hunterdon Central.

The school claims to have notified parents of children accused of bullying the plaintiff, but one of the lawyers of a teen named in the lawsuit says that isn’t true. His says his client denies the bullying charges and that his parents were never informed.

Taking these types of legal measures may seem extreme, but if it changes the way parents and schools respond to bullying – I’m all for it. I’m always shocked by the amount of adults who simply don’t care when children are tormented at school or chalk it up to the kids needing to “toughen up.”

I think we’d all agree that high school is hell and kids can be really, really mean. Just because it’s something we’ve all lived through, doesn’t mean we should fail to recognize how drastically the landscape has changed for our kids. Technology is taking bullying to the nth degree. There are situations where bullied kids can literally never escape their tormentors. If a kid is saying “help me,” there is never an excuse for that help not to be there. Hopefully a possibly litigious outcome will make schools and parents demand accountability and decency from these bullies.

Kids are depressed, they’re tormenting themselves with eating disorders and anxiety – and in some cases even committing suicide. This is not okay. There needs to be measures in place that ensure parents are informed and the school is listening. Maybe something like this will get us there.

(photo: Andrey_Popov/ Shutterstock)

52 Comments

  1. Ann

    March 26, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Awesome! I think that if this works in NJ it may just take off in other states then maybe just maybe those parents will take some responsibility for the way their “little darling” behaves! I had a daughter bullied in elementary and middle school, she didn’t attend the assigned high school but opted to go to one of the other high schools in town. I threatened the father of the girl with legal prosecution, even though I doubted it could be done, in front of this bully and made her cry. Yeah I’m an asshole but it made my daughter smile. If her parents thought for one minute that I could sue them I bet they would have taken a different stance!

  2. Robotic Socks

    March 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    This story makes that dad who filed a restraining order against his son’s bully seem neglectful

    • Kelly

      March 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      No, it doesn’t.

    • Robotic Socks

      March 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Your persuasive argument has persuaded me!

  3. keelhaulrose

    March 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    If I had to pay up because my kids was being a bully I’d have more incentive to listen to the school if they said my kid was being a bully.
    However my kid would have zero time to be a bully after that because they’d be working the debt off. Cleaning, mowing lawns, Etsy shop, I don’t care, their ass would be mine until that money was paid back with interest.

  4. AP

    March 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I 100% think minor-aged victims of minor-aged criminals (let’s stop calling them bullies, harassment, assault, battery, and theft are crimes) should be able to seek compensation.

    However, this kid was bullied for 8 years. He and his parents won this battle of principles and the bullies will face civil court action. That will not undo the 8 years of bullying he was subjected to. Why was he kept in that school environment for so long?

    • Zettai

      March 26, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Good question.

    • chippythehero

      March 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Because a lot times you have nowhere else to go. I was bullied all the way through grade and middle school, at two different institutions (one public, one private) and ended up going to a third (also private) school for high school where it sort of stopped. I was lucky. My parents could afford to take me elsewhere; not everybody can. Scholarships can only do so much when the tuition can cost the same as college.

    • Ginny

      March 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      I taught in a county where there was literally one high school in the entire county. If you weren’t happy there, oh well. There was literally nowhere else to go, unless you had parents who were willing/able to drive you to the next county over (about 25-30 minutes down the road). In Kentucky, if you want to attend a school that is not in your district you have to have permission from both the school you wish to attend and the school you should be attending. If you’re deemed a behavior problem, an attendance problem, or have bad grades you aren’t going to be accepted outside your district. And if they do take you and you become a behavior or attendance issue they will kick you out. I’ve seen it happen. It’s a tough position to be in when you see kids getting kicked out of an environment they’re happy and thriving in to an environment where they’re not happy and not succeeding in.

    • Jessifer

      March 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Sounds like a convenient excuse for the school and the parents of bullies to not do anything about it – after all, if the bullied child is miserable, it’s up to him/her to go to a different school. But why should it be up to the child to be uprooted and moved from school to school in order to escape the bullying? Isn’t that kind of like blaming the victim?

    • Ginny

      March 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I agree with that completely! I was teased mercilessly in high school because my dad was one of the most hated teachers in the building. When I would get teased the teachers would move my seat, away from my friends. The kid who was doing the teasing got to stay right where he was. I was so mad, and even at 14 I knew that was blaming the victim. In my classroom, I focus on positive reinforcement and do my very best not to punish the innocent.

    • Jessifer

      March 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      I lived in an area where there was only one high school within a 50 mile radius, so going to a different one was totally out of the question.

  5. Guest

    March 26, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    The only possible bad thing that would come from this is the further abuse of the bullies. I know it’s every bit as important that the behavior stops, but the sad fact is that most kids who bully learned from their parents that it’s okay to treat people like that if you are angry with them or need to blow off steam. I worry that these parents, who scream obscenities, use physical punishment and other abusive behaviors, will just escalate when they find out they might be sued–after all, that puts more stress on them, and then they take it out on their child. It would only drive the behavior deeper, because I guarantee you the bully would not be afraid of hurting someone. They’d be afraid of getting caught or told on, and then their parents hurting them because they got in trouble; it would never change their feelings about whether that behavior was “okay” because it was being modeled for them no matter what. We need to be evaluating these kids–victims and bullies–and making sure everyone is safe.

  6. Fireinthefudgehole

    March 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Sometimes hitting people in the money is the only way to get a message through. It is sad that knowing it can lead to suicide isn’t enough incentive to do something about it, though. Maybe someone should also tell them that some bullying victims have to go on disability due to the emotional damage.

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Like me? Lol! I should be on disability, but I choose not to. I just live with it & see a counselor when I can. Being without a car is difficult 😛 . My mom let me be bullied, & I have MDD. Everything started when we moved to NJ when my dad committed suicide. Now you’d think that’d give her a push to not want me to be bullied!

    • Fireinthefudgehole

      March 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      That’s awful! I’m so sorry you had to deal with so much and I hope things get better for you. I’m pretty much too stupid/scared to get the mental help I need.

    • TngldBlue

      March 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      It can be scary to seek psychological help. It took me almost a year of grappling with PPD before I did. My only regret was waiting so long. You don’t have to suffer in silence and I truly hope you reach out for assistance. Things can get better.

    • Psych Student

      March 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      I want to wish you super warm thoughts in seeking the mental help you need! Remember, when seeking mental health services, I know it’s tough, but you may need to try out a therapist or two before you find someone who works for you. It’s *super* frustrating, but don’t give up, there are people you’ll click with and who you feel understand you and can support you. Good luck!

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      I know how you feel, I was scared, too. When I was little, I remember my first few counselors were horrible. One school counselor had my mom take me for tests, for bipolar disorder, & they came back negative. My mom picked me up about a week later, & the counselor told my mom “I’m so sorry your child is bipolar,” right in front of the principle. Nothing was done, & my mom just cried about it & left. The counselor I saw out of school didn’t help me with my issues, & after asking my mom to tell me about my dad committing suicide (I was about 9), my mom refused several times, & the counselor said she couldn’t help me anymore without me knowing the truth. Good counselors are hard to find, but I did find a few, & they helped me with so much, that I felt like they were friends I was talking to. Just friends that listened better & came up with solutions! 🙂 Don’t be afraid of the unknown. & financially, I can’t afford it. I get help. So no excuse! Lol 🙂

    • Bethany Ramos

      March 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      So sorry to hear that! Awful. 🙁

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Well, I’m doing better now at least! I was thrilled to get out of school. I do miss the happy moments, but overall, I couldn’t wait 🙂 . I think of myself not as a victim, because I tried not to be so hurt, & even though I’ll always need counseling, I can be informed enough to know when my son outs being bullied when he’s old enough. & then I, myself, will know to take action so he doesn’t have to go through that much.

    • Bethany Ramos

      March 26, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      That is a wonder perspective! I’m in therapy too, so you’re in good company. <3

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Yes! I try to keep positive lol. My last 3 (they move around often in NJ!) have said I’m too happy for therapy! Lol.

  7. Kat

    March 26, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Ha, but when I was bullied, my mom didn’t care. She wrote it off. Twice I was sexually assaulted by my ex, our neighbor, & the SECOND time it happened, she went over & told his dad, & when his dad wanted to punish him, she said something along the lines of “nah, it’s not so bad, he just needs a talk”… When he was 15/16? Yesss… Even though he’d done it not just to me. & then freshman year, I got in a fist fight with some girl who was with her friend, racially discriminating & intimidating my best friend. She’d been in several fights before, but the school or the cops told my mom this was the first one recorded, & they asked if she wanted to press charges. An immediate “no”. They even gave her the chance to think about it anyway. Which was never thought about, no matter what I begged of. I went through high school with no more fights, but everyone remembered me because of her.
    The problem isn’t just schools & bullies, but the parents who don’t seem to think bullying is a big deal, whether it’s their kid or not. In 3rd grade, when I moved here to NJ, I was bullied like no tomorrow. No one cared. My younger sister, my aunt, my nana, they bullied me. My sister still does. & I’m going to be f’ing 23, she just turned 19. I made a deal, for my sake, & my child’s sake, that we wouldn’t associate with my sister any more after what happened 2 weeks ago. & my mother’s upset I’m not talking to her. Bullies will always be alive & well. I just won’t be around them.

    • Ginny

      March 26, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Your story makes me sick to my stomach, Kat. Kudos to you for not only coming out the other side, but coming out better and stronger. You have to do what’s best for you and your family. Your mom will understand or she won’t- but if she doesn’t, then maybe that tells you all you need to know.

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      It has time & time again. I’ve had boundaries with her, once where I didn’t talk to her for 3 months, & now, I just don’t call her or anything. She’s going to have to do the work, especially since she’s really the only one benefiting. I won’t be giving her money I don’t have anymore, & I certainly won’t listen to her problems she could fix easily 🙂 .

    • C.J.

      March 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      I am 37 years old and my mother is 55 years old. We just finally in the past year decided to completely cut my grandmother out of our lives. What finally did it for us is when she started bullying my children. I won’t put up with that. My mother was not in a place where she could stand up to her mother when I was a child but was able to do it for her grandchildren. I haven’t seen my sister in 5 years and my grandmother in a year and sadly all I feel is relief. I know how easy it is to get sucked back in, don’t ever feel bad because you chose to protect yourself and your child. I’m so sorry for everything you have had to go through. I wish you all the best.

    • Kat

      March 27, 2014 at 12:23 am

      Wow, 5 years? I hope I can stay away that long. It’s best for both of us. Knowing how much my aunt has bothered me, I can only assume she’ll do that to him soon enough. There’s too much jealousy & favoritism in my family. I’m so sick of living in a family where it’s worse than high school. I have enemies I could get along with quicker than my sister & my aunt. I just can’t get sucked in. My uncle went as far as disowning my nana & aunt. He hasn’t talked to them in about 5 years, either. I guess hate just runs rampant in the family. & I certainly wasn’t raised to be hateful. I moved out so many times before it actually became permanent last year, living with my fiancé. After I was about 4 months pregnant, I totally forgot about my counselor- I was actually happy. But after our lease ended this March 7th, me & the baby had to stay with my mom (& my sister). Wouldn’t ya know it, a week later I had to call my emergency counselor to see when I could come in. I saw her, & later that day I had a blow out with my sister, called my fiancé, & he came to get me with his friend. I haven’t, nor will I, look back. It’s somewhat refreshing, & I hope I just move on from it, like you have. I really feel better talking online about it, when I can’t get to a counselor. & I’m surprised how supportive everyone is on here. Facebook, everyone ignores or says how sorry they feel in the fakest way possible, other websites just say you’re throwing a pity party, but this site is awesome 🙂 . I’m glad I found this site when I did! Thank you for the support!

    • C.J.

      March 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

      I’m glad it helps you to talk about it online. It’s best to ignore people that are unsupportive. Some people just don’t understand what it is like to have toxic people in their lives. It took me a long time to realize that no matter how hard I try I will never be able to have a healthy relationship with my sister or my grandmother. I do love both of them but they are not healthy to be around. It is hard to make the decision to not allow people you love to hurt you anymore. It’s ok to feel confused about it. It is not ok for them to treat you or your son badly. I hope you can get to a point where you can put what is best for you ahead of what they want. It is a hard thing to do. You are important and don’t deserve to be treated like that. I hope that makes sense.

    • Kat

      March 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      I’m glad I ended it now instead of later when he could realize what kind of person my sister is. The last thing he needs is a nasty family member. My mom & nana call it tough love. But if it was a stranger, it’d be bullying? Sounds similar to me! “Selfish” or not, it’s better this way. I am important 🙂 & so are you!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      March 27, 2014 at 8:22 am

      O my god…
      I cannot imagine a grandparent bullying a child.
      I hope to god it wasn’t physical!

    • C.J.

      March 27, 2014 at 11:06 am

      She never physically abused them. I have never left them alone with her anyway. She is just mean to them. She will yell at them, speak nasty to them and glare at them. She is jealous of them because my parents and I pat attention to them and but them things. She thinks everyone should give all their money to her and cater to her at all times.They are afraid of her. She once grabbed candy out of one of their hands and yelled at her that it was hers and she couldn’t have any. My kids don’t know her that well since she gets mad at us if we don’t cater to her immediately and will go long periods without speaking to us. Scared the crap out of my daughter. It was candy that my mother put out for everyone at Christmas. My daughter took two candies, it’s not like she ate the whole bowl. My kids lost a close friend to a car accident last year just after Christmas and my grandmother made it very clear she didn’t care. Those two things made me realize she was never going to change. My kids don’t want to see her and I will never make them again.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      March 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Holy jaysus, that’s horrific.
      I’m so so sorry you and your kids have to go through that, it’s beyond cruel.
      I hope your kids were able to cope with the loss of their friend, it’s never easy, no matter what age you are, even harder to explain to a child.

      I really hope they are doing ok.

    • C.J.

      March 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you, they are doing ok. The little one had a harder time but she is coming around. The older one has been a great support for her. The little one went through a period where she just didn’t want to do anything but sit in her room. They have to write a story for school for the legion public speaking contest. She wrote hers about their friend that died. Writing that story seems to be the thing that has helped her accept it. She has won the first 3 rounds so far. She is normally shy so this is a big thing for her. She says she is doing it for her friend. It is heartbreaking to watch my little eight year old get up in front of a room full of people and tell the story. My kids have been through quite a bit in so far in life. My mother went through cancer, I had a stroke and then their friend died. They are tough kids with a very good support system, they will be ok. They aren’t bothered at all that my grandmother isn’t in their lives anymore, she was never there for them through any of it.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      March 27, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      I’m terribly sorry to hear that.
      It’s always hard when your child is suffering, no matter what it’s from.
      She seems to have a lot of inner strength for someone so young.

    • C.J.

      March 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      She does, they both do. I’m very lucky to have them, they are pretty amazing kids.

    • itpainsme2say

      March 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I was just going to say this, the fact that some parents are the bullies. I’m sorry your family is full of jerks and thank you for sharing your story. Stand your ground and show them they can’t bully you anymore,

    • Psych Student

      March 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      Yeah, it’s a common problem for gay/gender non-conforming kids. They get bullying from schools, parents, family, churches, etc.

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Thank you! I’m trying to overcome everything. I ended up in this relationship with my son’s father on a bad note with my ex, but it ended up being a great one. I’m in a much happier place than I was before. & now withmy baby, now almost 5 months, I have all that I need, with true unconditional love from him & his daddy 🙂 . I think I’m on the right path!

    • Guets

      March 26, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      I think you may want to cut out your sister, aunt, nana, and mother…maybe just the whole family. I would like you to have a whole new family of nice people :-/

    • Kat

      March 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you! My sister is cut out, my aunt & nana choose to be pretty much cut out, so I don’t worry about them until they come around about once a year, & my mom’s the last one to cut out if she doesn’t cut it out & fess up it’s all my sister’s fault our life is the way it is. & if she doesn’t stop calling me with her problems, I just won’t answer. I did that last summer for 2 weeks, then I accidentally answered the phone thinking it was my friend. Started right back up with her problems… But I’ll be ok, I can ignore some of it, & I don’t have to live with her, so I think I’ll be ok!

  8. whatlight

    March 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I guess this whole new approach to bullying may seem harsh in some ways, but I also understand that there are parents out there who for whatever reason possess a tremendous blind spot when it comes to their own kids. My parents were like that and so were my husband’s and as parents we are trying our best to not be with our own kids.

  9. Frannie

    March 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Amen, Maria!

  10. Frannie

    March 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Amen, Maria!

  11. Maggie

    March 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    In high school, I was bullied so badly that my parents ended up sending me to a private school with an hour and a half commute. The kids who bullied me were “rich” kids whose families flaunted their money and I think this kind of ruling would have made a HUGE difference in the way they behaved. Instead, I became the “lucky” casualty of a group of tormentors; at least my parents actually cared.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      March 27, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Same!
      I was sent to a private school (got in on scholarship, not like we could hand over the cash right away) and my god, the amount of snobbish bitches who looked down on anyone who didn’t Pay Up Front was horrendous.

      One girl in particular was awful, she’d crack jokes about how I couldn’t afford a car, or a new phone.
      When I did get a new phone for my birthday (my first touchscreen, I LOVED it!) she laughed and said Aw, can’t afford an iPhone?

      This is the same girl who threw a tantrum because her father wouldn’t pay several hundred euro to get her phone encrusted with (I shit you not) Swarovski crystals.

      Two days later, she shows up, phone covered in bling. She’s also comment on people’s names, saying whether they were lower class or not.
      But the worst for me was, she used to pick on my best friend cos he was gay. Only about four people knew because he was scared of getting bullied (he was 16).
      She’d make little snotty comments about how he “had to be gay cos he was so ugly no girl would ever want him” and how he was “so fat, his boyfriend would have to f*** his ROLLS OF FAT”
      She was really that horrible.

      Spoiled brat.

  12. Momma425

    March 26, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I don’t understand why the kid was not punished in the school. Why not suspend him? Or detention, or something? Obviously notifying the parents so they can handle things at home, but honestly- parents are at home, and if the bullying is happening at school- they need to be called and told to pick their kid up.
    I just don’t understand how the SCHOOL put up with this kid being bullied for 8 years and nothing changed. If it was happening during school hours, they should have dealt with it.

    • whiteroses

      March 26, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Because suspension and detention are no guarantees that the bullying will stop, and sometimes makes it worse. If a parent doesn’t see that their kid is doing something wrong, they won’t be punished at home. A lot of the time, this stuff is written off as “kids will be kids”.

    • Momma425

      March 26, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      I don’t disagree- the best bet is to have parents work in conjunction with the school in order to get the kid to stop.

      I guess the parents didn’t do anything in this case, but many times, the parents DO tell their kids to stop bullying. I know that when I was younger, I was not always nice to everyone. Especially in high school- I didn’t slam anyone into a locker or hit them, but I gossiped and intentionally excluded certain kids and was a raging bitch to some people. I’m not proud of that behavior. My parents found out and grounded me. They made me call the girls I made fun of and apologize. One time, they even took away my car for the week. I was still a jerk sometimes to those girls. There was only so much my parents could do because they weren’t at school with me. They didn’t see it happen- they didn’t know unless the girls complained and the school called home. Which happened a few times- but certainly not every single instance.

      I guess I just feel that obviously, the school should notify the parents, and the parents should handle stuff at home. But the school should have done more as well.

  13. airbones

    March 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Good!

  14. Emily A.

    March 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    The crux of this, or any other, discussion regarding bullying should be: ‘ If a kid is saying “help me,” there is never an excuse for that help not to be there.’

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