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Parent sues Teaneck district over child’s bullying

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Warshaw Law Firm, advocating for the educational rights of special needs children, is dedicated to protecting the rights of children with disabilities and children who are the victims of or accused of bullying, and assisting families in crisis through mediation and collaborative divorce.


TEANECK — The parent of a student who attended a township middle school last year has sued the district for allegedly failing to respond properly to the child’s bullying under state law.

Months of bullying and assaults — a kick to the stomach, punches to the head and mouth, shoving and ripped clothing — endured by the Thomas Jefferson Middle School student were not investigated and reported within the time frames required under the New Jersey Anti-Bully Bill of Rights Act, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court in Hackensack last week.

The student and parent, whose full names are not given in the complaint to protect their identity, also assert in the lawsuit that the student’s civil rights were violated because he is a member of a protected class “with regard to race and speech disability.”

Julie Warshaw, the family’s attorney, said the alleged torment and assault continued through the 2012-13 school year because administrators never provided more supervision during playtime at recess, when the incidents generally occurred, and didn’t initially classify the incidents as bullying.

“It’s a matter of changing the climate and culture to protect all students,” Warshaw said on Tuesday.

She declined to elaborate on the nature of the alleged bullying or how it relates to the student’s race and disability. According to the complaint, the physical assaults were carried out by students of a different race than Warshaw’s client.

State civil rights legislation applies if the student was deprived of equal protection under New Jersey laws, the complaint states.

The lawsuit names the Teaneck Board of Education, the principal, a vice principal and a school counselor at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as Barbara Pinsak, the school district superintendent.

Officials did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the lawsuit and on the district’s compliance with state guidelines on harassment, intimidation and bullying in schools. Isabel Machado, an attorney for the Teaneck Board of Education, could not be reached for comment.

The anti-bullying law, passed unanimously by the state Legislature in 2010 and signed into law by Governor Christie the following year, is considered one of the nation’s the most comprehensive.

Investigations into bullying allegations are required to begin within one school day of an incident and to be resolved within 10 days.

By law, the Board of Education is required to accept, reject or modify the superintendent’s recommendations on bullying incidents.

Last week, the Teaneck district hosted two presenters from the Anti-Defamation League for an anti-bias training session for district administrators, at a cost of up to $2,000.

Titled “A World of Difference Institute,” the program is intended to help participants “recognize bias and the harm it inflicts on individuals and society” and “confront racism, anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry,” according to the ADL’s website.

Email: morrison@northjersey.com