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To what extent can I sue/press charges for bullying?

Piscataway, NJ |

My daughter is bullied on a regular basis by students. It is only in school, not online. It has been going on for a few years now, and school officials have neglected to fix the problem properly, and have even 'forgotten' to punish children.They are spreading malicious rumors about her, most of which are lies. They have not physically attacked her yet, but have threatened to do so. It has grown from a few students to nearly her entire grade. To what extent can I sue/press charges for this?

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Attorney answers 6


I have represented several families in the Piscataway school system. But usually it is families of students who have been accused of and suspended of rather minor discressions that are risen to near criminal and criminal offenses. So I am surprised to hear a complaint that may rise from Piscataway administrators not doing enough.

As far as what you can do, you should be aware that your daughter has a constitutional right to a full and fair education. If the school is aware that your daughter is being harassed, bullied or intimidated and is not doing something to rectify the situation, then she is being deprived of a constitutional right. The first thing you should do is get a copy of the board of education rules and regulations and see if the administration is following the board of education guidelines.

Whether this rises to a matter where N attorney can be of help to you or not, I can't say from the brief information that you have provided. Feel free to contact my office to schedule a consultation and we can discuss this in greater detail. You can also get lots of useful information from the Education Law Center.

Law Offices of James A. Abate (732) 412-2364


Mr. Abate's advice is excellent. Bullying is the flavor of the month in criminal action. There is a section of the county prosecutor's office that reviews such cases. You must have heard of the Ravi case in that county. On the other hand bullying in unfortunately part of being a kid. When it crosses the line is hard to call. The school usually errs on the side of caution so it is strange that they have not done anything if the claims are substantiated in any way.


Notify the school in writing, referring to specific examples. If they continue to disregard your complaints, a consultation with an attorney is in order. You may need to file a criminal and/or civil complaint.


No offenses can be charged as a group as a practical matter. However, threats of physical harm rise to the level of harassment, potentially terroristic threats, or otherwise. The specific language used is critical to whether an offense has been committed. Given the length of time that you indicate this has occurred, it may be useful to go to the local police station where the school is located to speak with the detective burueau or the local school liaison police officer. Any recent threats to those who are usually involved can be brought to their/his/her attention. They may independently charge the individuals or you may need to sign out a complaint against them. However, these will likely be charged as juvenile delinquency acts in the Chancery Division unless one of the individuals is over 18.


Since the current advice revolves around the criminal aspect of your question I'll try to give some insight on the civil aspect. There are ways to sue for monetary damages in bullying cases. I've listed a few below with a short definition to give an overview.

1. Defamation against the bully: untrue words are written or spoken that are harming your daughter's reputation.
2. Intentional inflection of emotional distress against bully: similar to above but it was intended to cause emotional distress or anguish.
3. Assault and battery against bully: harmful or offensive contact or apprehension of the contact has occurred
4. General negligence against the school board: despite notice of the bullying the school failed to protect the interest of the child. Since the school is a public entity this claim would be subject to the limitation of the Tort Claims Act, which has a permanent injury threshold that is difficult to overcome.The new anti-bullying law that recently went into effect will also play a role in determining if the school acted appropriately.
5. A claim under the NJ Law Against Discrimination act against the school board if the bullying was severe and pervasive and falls under a protected class such as race, creed, color, religion etc.

All of the options listed are difficult to win in their own way and are very fact sensitive. My summary is in no way intended to indicate your facts would be successful under any of the above scenarios. You would need to sit down with a personal injury attorney and discuss the full details of the bullying, the school's response, and the effect on your daughter to get a better of idea of your chance for success.

I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. Feel free to contact me to discuss in more detail.


Complain to the school in writing and copy the district attorney on the letter. Demand that thy address the issue within a certain time period.

Mr. Pascale is licensed to practice law in the State of New York. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and time-lines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Pascale strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to insure proper advice is received.

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