Austin Independent School District recently found itself in hot water when the mother of a student filed a lawsuit alleging the school district failed to protect her daughter from bullying.
A lawsuit was filed earlier this week against Austin Independent School District (AISD) over claims that school officials failed to step in when a student was being bullied by other students. The suit was filed by the mother of the bullied student and alleges her daughter, who attends Martin Middle School, was “repeatedly harassed and discriminated against based on her race and the fact that she was an immigrant.”
According to the mother, her daughter was specifically targeted by a handful of girls who regularly called her racial slurs and told her to “go back to where she came from.” Additionally, the girls told her daughter she smelled and even “once sprayed perfume in her face.” Disturbed by her daughter’s treatment, the mother repeatedly reported the bullying to school officials. Unfortunately, the school did nothing to help end the bullying and never reprimanded the group of girls who were doing the bullying. As part of the suit, attorneys for the mother said the “inaction by the school violated its own anti-discrimination and harassment policies.”
For example, the suit notes that AISD’s anti-bullying, harassment, and discrimination policies outline how school officials should have reacted to the bullying. For starters, officials should have “intervened on behalf of the bullied student to make sure she got counseling and to investigate the incident and update the student’s parents of how the investigation was going.” However, school officials allegedly told the mother that the incidents between her daughter and the group of girls “did not fall within its definitions of bullying or harassment.”
As a result of the school’s inaction to defend the student, the harassment and bullying only escalated, “culminating in a physical altercation between the student and the other girls,” according to the suit. When that happened, the mother alleges “her daughter was treated as the bully in the fight and was suspended and sent to an alternative school as punishment.” Additionally, the vice-principal allegedly told the mother’s daughter, “Who’s the bully now?”
Not long after, the bullied student began “displaying suicidal ideation and an attempt, in addition to other self-harming behaviors, which included hospitalization and mental health evaluations.” After meeting with psychiatric professionals, it was determined the student’s “depression and low-self esteem were due to the ongoing bullying and that accommodations for the girl should be given by the school,” according to the suit.
So how has AISD responded to the suit? Well, so far Eddie Villa, a communications specialist with AISD issued the following statement:
“Austin ISD has not been served. If a student believes that they have experienced prohibited behavior, they should immediately report the alleged act to a school principal or assistant principal, school district’s counselor, nurse, or Title IX coordinator for students at 414-9813 or 414-3974. Austin ISD encourages students, parents, and employees to work together to prevent acts of harassment of any kind by fostering a climate of mutual respect for others.”