Thursday, August 20, 2009

New angle in Title IX bullying case

In Pittsburgh, PA a mother is suing the school district and school officials for failing to take action when her daughter was being bullied about her weight. Despite complaints to officials and attempted interventions by other students, the bullying of the 6th-grader continued and the girl developed anorexia for which she entered a treatment facility in 2008. She is now attending private school.
The bullying aspect is not new. The anorexia as a result is what has made this story a little more attention-grabbing. With groups such as the National Eating Disorders Association and eating disorder experts giving their opinion on the situation, we forget that the specific result--the eating disorder--is not what is really at issue. So while many are hesitant to say that bullying directly leads to anorexia, it is actually an issue the courts will not have to address. After all bullying has a lot of negative manifestations as we have seen in cases of the bullying of gay or suspected gay students. Self-esteem issues, drop in academic performance, suicide attempts, and perhaps even eating disorders or at least disordered eating have manifested in these students. And while these things may be presented as evidence of the severity of the bullying, what is at issue, as Duquesne law professor Bruce Ledewitz notes is whether the bullying and the failure to prevent it resulted in the loss of an educational opportunity for the student.
And that is what a judge will examine when (or if) the case goes to court.