On October 9, 2003, at approximately 12:30 p.m., the plaintiff, who was a freshman in high school, was exiting a bathroom when two female students, who were seniors at the school, assaulted her by pinning her against the wall and inappropriately touching and fondling her. The plaintiff alleged that the assault took place in the vicinity of a security desk, and was witnessed by a security guard who failed to act to stop the attack. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that defendants routinely failed to follow their own security policies and procedures, creating an environment in which individual security guards were largely unaccountable for their work performance.
Six days following the attack the plaintiff had to be hospitalized for anxiety attacks. She began psychiatric care on an outpatient basis following the hospitalization. She returned to school after being released from the hospital approximately one week later. At plaintiff's mother's request, the school assigned the plaintiff an aid to walk her back and forth from classes, and began bussing the plaintiff to and from school because she feared retaliation from her attackers for pressing criminal charges.
The plaintiff's condition throughout the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year ebbed and flowed in conjunction with run-ins with her attackers and alleged teasing about the attack from her peers at school. She remained under psychiatric care for medication monitoring and she received psychological counseling once a week.
Plaintiff alleged that when she returned to the high school for the 2004-2005 school year, the teasing about the October 9, 2003 sexual assault continued. Ultimately, the plaintiff was placed on a home schooling program after leaving the high school in November 2004. Shortly before her home schooling program was set to expire, she attempted suicide by overdosing on Paxil. A month later, she attempted suicide a second time by taking Paxil, this time consuming more pills. The plaintiff was then admitted into an intensive outpatient therapy program and completed her 2004-2005 school year there.
In addition to the negligent security claim, the plaintiffs alleged that the teasing she experienced at the Newark highschool denied her a harassment free school environment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, pursuant to L.W. v. Tom's River Regional Schools Bd. of Educ., 189 N.J. 381(2007).
At the recommendation of her social worker, the plaintiff was transferred into another school district after she was released from her outpatient treatment following her second suicide attempt. Although she remained under the care of a psychiatrist, the plaintiff excelled in her new educational environment. She was elected student body president at her new school and graduated valedictorian of her class.
Lawyer John Ratkowitz (click here for bio) represented the plaintiff. The case settled on the third day of trial.
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