Jury Rules In School System’s Favor In Bullying Case
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A Baltimore family loses their battle. A jury says city schools are not liable for alleged bullying of their special needs child.
Weijia Jiang has reaction to the verdict.
Jurors say emotionally, they sided with the child and his family. But logically, they could not believe their entire story.
Ed and Shawna Sullivan say their nightmare just got worse.
“I feel betrayed, honestly. I feel betrayed the school system can do these things and get away with it,” said Edmund Sullivan, father.
A jury ruled in favor of Baltimore City schools despite the couple’s grave allegations.
They say their 10-year-old special needs child was severely bullied at two schools—stabbed with a fork, even choked until he passed out, and that the principals knew about repeated attacks but did nothing.
“Obviously I feel upset because I’m going to have to tell him the system failed him, that we failed as parents because we couldn’t protect him,” said Shawna Sullivan, mother.
In Maryland’s first ever bullying trial, Charlotte Williams– head of Glenmount Elementary– and Sidney Twiggs– head of Hazlewood Elementary– faced charges of negligence.
Both were cleared.
“Thank the Lord it’s all gone. That’s all I have to say,” said Sidney Twiggs, defendant.
The Sullivans admit they never filed a written complaint. They had no picture or records of injuries. They say they thought their word was enough.
“In-person complaints don’t mean anything, and phone calls don’t mean anything,” Ed Sullivan said.
Jurors tell WJZ a paper trail could have lead them in the other direction.
“It would have made a big difference, but we went through all the evidence and there was no proof,” said Major Wilkes, juror #3.
“The family couldn’t give names, couldn’t give dates, stories didn’t match up. The fact the child was choked on school property and no one called police,” said Carl Armstrong, juror #6.
Now the Sullivans hope other families can learn from their loss.
“This is a message to all parents to put everything in writing, take pictures, and not rely on the city school system to do the right thing,” said Donna King.
Administrators for Baltimore City schools have been very tight lipped during this trial. They only issued a paper statement to say the case shows how “complex the interactions between students can be” and that they take allegations of misconduct seriously.
The family’s attorney says they have not discussed whether to file an appeal.