Bullying victim sues her former school and the district

Posted: November 21, 2013

WHEN THERE'S A BULLY at a Philadelphia school, certain protocols are to be followed, according to district policy.

A school principal "shall take immediate and appropriate action to investigate" a bullying complaint or determine what occurred, according to the policy adopted by the School Reform Commission in 2010. The probe should be completed 14 days after the complaint was filed.

None of the policy's protocols appear to have been followed on behalf of a seventh-grade student at Andrew Hamilton School in West Philadelphia, according to a civil-rights complaint filed Thursday in federal court.

The girl told her parents in 2011 that she was being bullied by another girl in her grade at the school, on Spruce Street near 57th, the suit contends. The bullying consisted of kicking, stalking and physical intimidation, she said.

Her mother - who has since died - told the principal and school counselor, both named in the suit, about the bullying, according to the complaint.

Both students are identified in the suit, but the Daily News is withholding their names because of their ages.

School officials "did not do anything to segregate them," Reginald Allen, attorney for the alleged victim and her father, Faruq Robinson, told the Daily News. "They did nothing to protect my client."

The family was never interviewed and an investigation was never launched, Allen said.

The suit was filed by Robinson on behalf of his daughter. It names as defendants the district; the School Reform Commission; Annette Gittelman, the principal; Levnita Cann Hawkins, a counselor; and other school staffers.

The suit seeks more than $151,000 in compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs.

At least a month after the school was informed in late 2011, the Hamilton staff organized a sit-down between the two students, according to the complaint.

The girls were "physically separated by one seat" for the meeting, according to the lawsuit.

The purported bully became "visibly agitated while her behavior was being discussed" and stood up, the suit contends. She approached the other student, the lawsuit alleges, and punched the girl in the head and face about seven times.

The staffers in the room offered no protection, nor did they intervene as the alleged bully attacked the girl, the lawsuit alleges.

The alleged victim's 14th Amendment rights were violated when the school and the district didn't protect her, Allen said.

The other student was not suspended nor transferred. "There was no corrective action," Allen said.

The alleged victim left the school before the year ended.

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

Online: ph.ly/DNEducation

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