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WA School District Settles $100,000 Lawsuit With Bullied Student

It looks like its pay day for Russell Dickerson III, a former student at Aberdeen High School in Washington State, who sued his school district after years of harassment based on his race and perceived sexual orientation.

With the help of the ACLU of Washington, Dickerson filed papers in 2010 claiming Aberdeen School District officials knew he was being bullied but failed to take steps to stop it.

A report from the ACLU details some of the abuse Dickerson suffered:                                                                                                 

At Miller Junior High, Dickerson was called names by other students and found notes in his backpack and taped to his back calling him “stupid nigger” and “dog.” Students tripped him in the hallways and threw food at him in the cafeteria. In one incident, three students pushed him to the floor in the hallway and smashed a raw egg on his head; only one of the students was disciplined.

At Aberdeen High School, the harassment escalated… Dickerson suffered physical harassment, with other students pinching and fondling his chest, spitting on his head, and throwing objects at him. Although an assistant principal discouraged Dickerson from reporting misconduct by the student’s peers, the student and his parents repeatedly reported incidents of harassment to district administrators, both verbally and in writing. Yet the district failed to take adequate steps to end the harassment.

In 2007 students in the district created a website mocking Dickerson and his perceived sexual orientation, and posted threatening racist comments on it. Students discussed the website at school. Grays Harbor Superior Court issued a no contact order between Dickerson and one of his harassers who had threatened on the website to lynch him, yet Dickerson became the target of retaliatory harassment after reporting the website to school authorities.

This week, the case ended in a settlement, with Dickerson being awarded $100,000 and the ACLU netting $35,000 in legal fees.

“Public school officials must be held accountable when they fail to meet their responsibility to act decisively when a student is subjected to harassment by his peers,” said Sarah Dunne, ACLU-WA legal director. “This settlement sends a message to school districts statewide to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied.”

Dickerson, now 20, says it was his family that kept him strong and helped him decide to seek justice. “I learned from my parents that you should never give up. You should fight for your rights—you don’t just walk away.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if they taught that at school, too?

By:           Dan Avery
On:           Jan 27, 2012
Tagged: , ,
  • 5 Comments
    • Mike UK
      Mike UK

      well it’s a step in the right direction!

      Jan 27, 2012 at 6:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike in Asheville
      Mike in Asheville

      Nice story, thanks.

      **************

      Note to Queerty and Dan Avery (yes, I rag on you about poor journalism and grammar, interestingly, you guys go hot and cold about that): I think you need to rethink your use of the term “payday” regarding lawsuit settlements. By definition, payday is the moment one receives compensation for their labors. By using the term “payday”, you imply that enduring very ugly bullying is comparable to a job, that, as everyone plans their employment and living opportunities, the victim planned to be harassed and bullied in order to earn a that living. Compensation for pain and suffering is hardly the same thing as a “payday.”

      Jan 27, 2012 at 9:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PTBoat
      PTBoat

      Good for this young man. I can remember, in the sixth grade, the bullying seemed almost unbearable because my teacher not only sanctioned it, but was an aid to it. It was an early lesson in the false idea that hope was not to be found. I think this kid is courageous and it is that courage to speak out that ended up in his earning this payday.

      Jan 27, 2012 at 9:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chuck
      chuck

      I wish that someone would hire a good attorney and sue the monetary pants off the MN Anoka-Hennepin School District. They have consistently not done a thing to stop bullying in their schools. Children have committed suicide because of bullying in their schools. Parents have tried to get the Federal Government involved. Judges have sent down anti-bullying rulings. But now the District is contemplating X-Gay teaching as a response. Lawsuits mean nothing to these people unless a lot of money starts to be pulled from their budget.

      Jan 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • shannon
      shannon

      if he were a REAL Blackman…those people would be missing their DAMN TEETH! they know who they CAN pick on…who is weak….

      Jan 29, 2012 at 3:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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