The Associated Press is announcing that a New Jersey school district has agreed to pay $4.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a middle school student who was paralyzed when a known bully punched him in the abdomen. According to the story, Sawyer Rosenstein complained to the district about being bullied prior to the incident.
The Associate Press reports that the family’s lawsuit alleged school officials knew or should have known the boy’s attacker had violent tendencies and failed to comply with a state anti-bullying law. The boy had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier, but the school kept no record of it or other attacks. Further, the suit alleged that the attacker was not subjected to escalating discipline.
Three months before being punched, Rosenstein, then 12, emailed school officials to report he was being bullied and to ask for help. “I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased,” he wrote to his guidance counselor. “I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”
Sawyer was punched in the abdomen at school on May 16, 2006, dropping him to his knees. When he came home that day he complained of pain in his back but did not have other complaints until two days later. The seventh-grader let out a scream in his bedroom and would never walk again. The blow caused a clot in a major artery that supplies blood to his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Sawyer Rosenstein, now an 18-year-old freshman majoring in communication at Syracuse University, told The Associated Press that he decided to talk about the case to let others who are bullied know that they can recover and to let would-be bullies know that violence can have serious consequences.