'They failed'; Victims of bullying in class-action suit detail allegations

'They failed'; Victims of bullying in class-action suit detail allegations

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sandee Niblock said her daughter suffered a concussion after a Castle High School classmate attacked her on a school bus two years ago.

Marchet Fullum said students at Mililani Middle School School hit her daughter and called her racial epithets last year.

And Anna Grove said her child was sexually harassed and received death threats from another student at Wailuku Elementary School last year.

These parents and their children are part of a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday, alleging that the Department of Education isn't doing enough to prevent bullying in the schools.

"There are incidents that occur every day in Hawaii schools," said their attorney, Eric Seitz.

"Frankly, the Hawaii Department of Education hasn't done and doesn't care to do what it minimally can do to keep children safe."

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a seven-year study released earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which found that 20,000 students claimed that they were bullied on campus.

Federal authorities said nearly half didn't report the incidents for fear of retaliation or because they didn't think it would help.

DOE officials declined comment on the lawsuit because it's pending. But in the past, the department has said that it has taken steps to address bullying and that the federal report is based on old data.

But parents and students said bullying is everywhere in the school system.

"At Castle, everybody gets bullied," said the victim of the school bus beating.

"Castle doesn't do anything. ... They really don't take action."

The girl, now 16, has transferred to another school and didn't want her name used. She said hours before she was attacked, she told counselors at Castle High School that she was being threatened but nothing was done.

"I am furious to this day. I'm absolutely furious. My child reported that she was threatened to two administrators at Castle High School ... she suffered life-threatening injuries," said her mother, Sandee Niblock.

"I expect them to do their job and keep my daughter safe. They didn't, they failed."

The attacker was later prosecuted as a minor in family court.

Marchet Fullum said 10 girls constantly bullied her daughter, which made her depressed and prompted her to act out.

At one point, the 13-year-old girl said she wrote a threatening note that she would shoot up the school and her tormentors, even though her family didn't own a gun and she didn't have access to one.

"I can't explain to you how much hurt it brought to me. ... When I made the school aware of what was happening nothing happened, no discipline to the bullies," she said.

"I've seen many girls get pushed, beaten get called names. ... I've seen people use the n-word like nothing."

Seitz was one of several attorneys who filed a class-action suit in 1993 against the DOE for not providing adequate services for disabled students in Hawaii, in what's now known as the Felix case. The state would up spending more than $1.2 billion over 12 years to beef up its special education programs.

He said the DOE's neglect in dealing with school bullying exposes it to an even greater liability than the Felix case.

"This is larger in my view than the Felix case because it involves many more kids and it involves policies and practices that are much more applicable to all of the students in all of the public schools," he said

Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, blames a lack of resources. He said counselors, who often are called on to deal with bullying, often handle as much as 600 students at one time.

"We have counselors dealing with hundreds of students and we just don't have enough resources to deal with the complex issues," he said.

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