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City to settle student bullying suit for $45K

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates is slated to approve the settlement of a lawsuit filed by a mother who said her daughter was assaulted and verbally harassed by another classmate.

The settlement, which is on the agenda for Wednesday’s board meeting, calls for the mother, Bessie Pearson, to receive $45,000.

Pearson filed her lawsuit against the city’s school board in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Oct. 7, 2011. She alleged that another student kicked her daughter, Nichelle Greene, in the head, face and body on Oct. 10, 2008, while Greene was attending Carver Vocational Technical High School.

Pearson said the incident occurred in the school’s cafeteria. Before this incident, Pearson said, her daughter was verbally harassed by the same classmate in front of a school administrator, who failed to intervene or otherwise supervise the classmate.

After the assault, Pearson said, Greene was not taken to the hospital even though she had severe physical trauma and complained of feeling dizzy and tired.

“Because of the incident, [Greene] suffered physical damages requiring three surgeries to date,” Deputy City Solicitor David E. Ralph said in a memo to the Board of Estimates dated May 15. “In addition, [the student] has been diagnosed with post traumatic shock syndrome.”

Pearson was seeking $100,000 in damages for negligence against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.

“Based on the legal and factual issues specific to this particular claim,” Ralph said, the law department was recommending that the Board of Estimates approve the settlement.

Scott B. Baron, an attorney at Hochberg, Costello & Baron in Towson, represented Pearson. Baron declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.

In 2005, state legislators passed the Safe Schools Reporting Act, which requires that local boards of education report acts of bullying.

Four years later, the Maryland State Department of Education, recognizing that bullying in schools was a persistent problem, issued a model policy for the local boards to follow.

The state’s 2009 policy lays out broad guidelines for schools to prevent bullying and harassment, including the implementation of anti-bullying programs, staff training, remedial measures to correct inappropriate behavior and counseling.

The policy, however, is not applied consistently, said Maureen van Stone, associate director of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Van Stone said in an interview in April that school systems do not always provide access to bullying, harassment and intimidation forms, and the follow-through with families about the problems is spotty.

BESSIE PEARSON, ET AL. V. BALTIMORE CITY BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS ET AL.

Court:

Baltimore City Circuit Court

Case No.:

24C11006393

Outcome:

Settled for $45,000

Dates:

Event: Oct. 10, 2008

Suit filed: Oct. 7, 2011

Settlement slated for approval: June 5, 2013

Plaintiff’s attorney:

Scott B. Baron, Hochberg, Costello & Baron in Towson.

Defendants’ attorney:

George Nilson of the Baltimore City Law Department.

Count:

Negligence