By Lauren Wanko
Eleven Hunterdon County students are being brought into a lawsuit by two school districts — Hunterdon Central and Flemington-Raritan. The lawsuit was originally filed against those two districts by a former student — identified as V.B. — who says he’s still suffering from years of bullying. He claims the school districts failed to intervene despite he and his mother’s numerous complaints. Attorney Jeffery Shanaberger, who represents the Flemington-Raritan school district, says both school districts decided to bring the 11 teens into the lawsuit, along with their parents.
“What the two school districts did is utilize a mechanism in New Jersey law to bring those 11 students into the case. That’s what they did. They filed a third party complaint which effectively made them parties to the case so they stand in the same position as the school districts as far as the lawsuit is concerned,” said Shanaberger.
Shanaberger says the plaintiff, V.B., was very specific in terms of the allegations of his complaint. He identified the alleged bullies by their initials and included specific dates and times of the various incidents over the years.
“So we thought that if he’s gonna allege we weren’t responsible in controlling the behavior of those students, he would first have to prove the students in fact did those acts, and they should stand before the jury with the district and the jury would decide what amount of responsibly each party would bear,” Shanaberger said.
Three of the students filed motions to dismiss the complaint, which were denied by the judge. V.B.’s attorney says his client was bullied from fifth through 11th grade and both V.B. and his parents complained continuously to the school districts with no effective results. Attorney Brian Cige says V.B. was hospitalized twice because of the bullying. The school recommended he graduate high school early — in his junior year — and the 18-year-old is still suffering from being subjected to years of emotional and physical torment.
“For our case it’s gonna make things a lot more complicated, but we think it sends a really positive message that kids needs to be responsible and parents need to be responsible for their kids,” Cige said.
“I think it’s a shame that it’s turned into we’re such a litigiousness society,” said Cheryl Internoscia.
“I believe personally parents need to be more on top of what’s going on with their children,” said Fran Miller.
“What schools are trying to do is reduce their liability and responsibility. It’s the school that’s really completely responsible for bullying that goes on between students,” said Stuart Green, founder of Anti-bullying.
The attorneys are in the process of investigating the merits of the allegations and another case management conference is scheduled with the judge next month.