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Court Mulls Case That Would Make Districts Liable For Ongoing Harassment Between Students

Stephen DUnn
A high school student searches for information on cyber bullying.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could set state precedent, holding school districts liable for ongoing student-on-student harassment.

The first hurdle plaintiffs must clear is related to the statute of limitations in the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protects people from being discriminated against for things such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. But the statute of limitations to file a harassment complaint is six months.

In the case heard Tuesday, the plaintiff alleges being bullied and then sexually assaulted by his elementary school classmates for being gender non-conforming, but he waited three years before filing a complaint.

The plaintiff is seeking damages from the School District of Philadelphia for failure to intervene to stop the harassment, but first must convince Commonwealth Court judges that the anti-discrimination law allows minors more time to bring a complaint.

“Children shouldn’t be dependent on their parents to file in order to preserve whatever claims they may have for injuries that may affect them for the rest of their lives,” said David Berney, the plaintiff’s lawyer.

The defense argued that since minors aren’t specifically mentioned in the anti-discrimination law, it would require new legislation to extend their statute of limitations.

Find this report and others at the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads