The city could be on the hook for a 12-year-old girl's private-school tuition after she was bullied so relentlessly at a Manhattan public school that she was forced to leave, according to a published report.
A New York judge has ruled that the learning-disabled girl was bullied at PS 6 on the Upper East Side during the 2007-2008 school year, and may have been deprived of her educational rights, the New York Post reports.
The city could be forced to pay the $40,000 her parents shelled out for a year at the state-approved Summit School in Queens before they moved to another school district in the state.
According to the Post's account of the court case, the girl was taunted and called names, and classmates laughed at her when she raised her hand and refused to touch items she had handled first. They drew a caricature of her, labeled it with words like "smely" and "ugly," and gave the drawing to her.
They also pushed and tripped her, and one classmate chased the girl with ketchup, telling her it was blood.
PS 6's principal allegedly did nothing to take action and refused to discuss the bullying with the girl's parents, who finally enrolled her in the state-approved Summit School.
In his ruling, Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein said, "When a school fails to take reasonable steps to prevent such objectionable harassment of a student, it has denied her an educational benefit protected by statute."
Weinstein will decide on the payment after he finds out from a DOE hearing officer what, if anything, education officials did about the bullying, according to the Post.
The ruling could open the floodgates for lawsuits involving special education students who enroll in private school in similar circumstances, as well as for all students who are bullied or cyberbullied, lawyer and national bullying expert Parry Aftab told the Post.
The city's Department of Education currently already reimburses about $235 million a year in private-school tuition to parents who prove public schools did not adequately serve their kids with disabilites. But the provision has never before included bullying.
In the Weinstein case, the girl was originally diagnosed with autism, and put in a team-teaching classroom that mixed learning-disabled students with those who were not, according to the Post. She was given a one-on-one teacher's aide, along with speech, occupational and physical therapy.
The city said the girl received a "free and appropriate public education," and says it will fight the parents' push for payment.
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