Dad sues Metuchen schools after son is labeled a bully
METUCHEN —A father is suing this borough's school district after his son was accused of bullying a student for being skinny.
The trouble for the student began in November 2015 when a boy in his class took off a sweatshirt, partially revealing his torso.
The lawsuit says the Campbell Elementary School students laughed at the boy. One of the students later drew a picture depicting the boy shirtless and the student whose father is now suing was accused of encouraging the illustrator to share his picture on social media.
The lawsuit, however, says there is "no evidence" that the picture was shared on any social media platforms.
The target of the teasing told the teacher what had happened that same day and the school investigated the incident as a bullying matter, the lawsuit says.
The school learned that the boy had been the target of bullying since the beginning of the year, but had not reported it, according to the lawsuit. The bullying included being called "skinny bean" and "strawberry shortcake."
Less than a month after the incident, school administrators met with the family of the father suing the district, at which time the boy admitted to being dishonest during his interview. The boy said he had laughed when the victim took his shirt off but said he did not bully or tease the boy before that.
School officials concluded that two children had, by the school's definition, committed bullying, according to the lawsuit.
The findings of the report were affirmed by the district Board of Education the next month.
The boy's father told NJ.com that the lawsuit is "about showing my kid that these things aren't OK. "You don't have to take them. There's a way of fighting them."
Taylor's lawsuit says his son suffered "emotional distress including emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and has been permanently stigmatized as a "bully." The lawsuit also claims that the Metuchen district "disproportionately disciplines Black students."
"Defendant's discriminatory practices have created an atmosphere where students of color are disciplined disproportionately in every measured category," the lawsuit says. That includes in and out of school suspensions and referrals to law enforcement. The lawsuit also claims that students of color in the district have lower rates of placement in advanced classes and lower graduation rates.
The lawsuit seeks not only damages from the district, but also court orders for the district to "cease and desist from engaging in discriminatory practices against students," and to "modify its policies, practices, and procedures as necessary to ensure its programs, practices, and procedures do not have a discriminatory impact on students."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-353-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com