Jury Awards $1.25M to Student Forced to Pee in Bucket During Class
A former San Diego high school student recently won a $1.25 million dollar jury verdict as a result of her lawsuit against her former school resulting from being forced to pee in a bucket in a supply closet. The lawsuit alleged that the embarrassing incident, which was caused by a faculty member, led to extreme bullying, eventually causing the student to suffer PTSD, attempt suicide, and incur other damages.
The large jury verdict came after the school rejected the initial settlement demand of only $25,000. Currently, the school is considering whether to appeal the verdict.
Facts of the Case
In 2012, the 14-year-old student was in a special type of 25-minute class session where bathroom breaks were not allowed due to the short class period. Although the policy was supposed to be applied with "common sense," her teacher refused to allow the student to go to the school's restroom.
Rather, the teacher provided the student with a bucket and told her to use the supply room adjacent to the classroom for privacy. The teacher had brought the bucket in as part of her emergency preparedness kit, and shockingly, admitted to having peed in the bucket herself while working late nights.
After the incident became known to other students, the plaintiff was teased and ridiculed to the point where she needed to transfer schools, twice. The teacher, who just so happened to be new, claimed to not understand that the policy was flexible. The teacher was put on paid administrative leave, and never returned to the school after the incident.
School Liability for Bullying
When parents entrust their children to schools, schools assume the responsibility to keep the children safe. When schools fail in that regard, they can be held liable under a theory of negligence.
Generally, schools will not be liable for bullying unless they are aware of it, or should have been aware of it, and fail to intervene. In this case, the school actually created the situation that led to the bullying, and failed to stop it from happening. Additionally, bullies themselves can be held liable for their actions.