MUNICIPAL LAW: Superior Court grants in part and denies in part motion to strike claims against municipal defendants arising out of bullying

7/28/2016 | Kathryn M. Cunningham
kmcunningham@jacksonokeefe.com

Category: Municipal Law

Kathryn M. Cunningham

 The plaintiff alleged that during eighth grade, she was repeatedly subjected to verbal bullying, physical bullying, and harassment through electronic means. She alleged that school officials were aware of the bullying but did nothing to prevent it.  On the defendant’s motion to strike, the Superior Court holds that claims against the municipality are not barred by sovereign immunity.  As to the Board of Education, the court holds that a claim brought pursuant to the Connecticut Constitution’s requirement for the provision of a free public education, the Board of Education is entitled to sovereign immunity and strikes said claim.  The court also strikes a derivative claim based upon said allegations directed against the town.  The court holds that the municipal defendants are not entitled to statutory immunity pursuant to General Statutes §10-222l, which states in relevant part that no claim “for damages shall be made against a local or regional board of education that implements [a] safe school climate plan … and reports, investigates, and responds to bullying … if such local or regional board of education was acting in good faith in the discharge of its duties.  The immunity provided in this subsection does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, reckless, willful or wanton misconduct.”  In the case before it, the court notes that the plaintiff alleged that the defendants had not taken any action to prevent bullying and instead ignored reports of bullying and denied that it was taking place.  Accordingly, the motion to strike on the basis of statutory immunity was denied.  With regard to the claims for intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress, the court holds that common-law qualified immunity bars said claims.  The court notes that General Statutes §52-557n abrogates governmental immunity only with respect to negligent conduct.  Accordingly, the claims for intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress are stricken.  Finally, the court denies the town’s motion to strike the claims against it on the grounds that the duty to provide a safe school environment rested with the Board of Education rather than with the town.  The court concludes that a town is responsible on agency grounds for the acts of the Board of Education.  Rajeh v. Hamden Board of Education, 2016 WL 3609704 (Conn.Super. Fischer, J.) (June 7, 2016)

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