Education Law

Plaintiffs Object to Deal in Anorexia Suit Claiming School Didn’t Prevent Fat Taunts

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A former middle school student who claims teasing by classmates led to her anorexia is due to receive a legal settlement in what may be a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, even though she and her mother now say it’s not enough.

U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose ruled that the $55,000 settlement agreement with the Pittsburgh Public Schools had to be enforced, even though the mother now says she felt pressured to agree to the amount in a mediation, according to stories in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Associated Press.

Before the hearing, the mother, identified as Mary V., wasn’t returning her lawyer’s phone calls or correspondence, according to earlier stories by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Associated Press. Lawyer Edward Olds notified the court about the predicament in a motion last week.

The suit was filed by the mother and daughter in federal court last August, and settled in May, the Post-Gazette says. “Now I look back and their offer was an insult,” Mary V. told the judge. Olds, however, said the deal was fair.

The suit claimed that the teasing began in the 2006-07 school year when the girl was in the sixth grade. Three boys taunted the girl, calling her names and telling her she was ugly and fat. A guidance counselor downplayed the problem, the suit alleges, telling the girl that boys will be boys and they must like her if they are teasing her. In the seventh grade, two more boys joined in the teasing.

Often the girl threw out her lunch instead of eating it in front of the boys, the suit claimed, and she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic for the treatment of anorexia in February 2008. The suit alleges other students tried to stop the bullying, but school officials never acted. She later transferred to a private school, where tuition is $6,000 a year.

Lynn Grefe, chief executive officer of the National Eating Disorders Association, told AP the lawsuit was first of its kind.

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