Family Seeks $1.1 Million In Cyber Bullying Lawsuit - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Family Seeks $1.1 Million In Cyber Bullying Lawsuit

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

FRANKLIN, Tenn. - A Williamson County family decided to sue Williamson County Schools for $1.1 million after they said the district didn't do enough to protect their son from cyber bullies.

Bullying these days is not only face to face. Students sometimes resort to text messages, or turn to social networking sites to spew their insults.

"It's devastating to a child because everything's at stake when these kinds of things happen. Always looking over your shoulder; not knowing when it's coming (and) where it's coming from," Rodger Dinwiddie.

The Mihnovich family said their 8th grade son has been the victim of cyber-bullying from his peers at Grassland Middle School.

It included text messages with repeated taunts including racial slurs and a death threat. They even said a Facebook page was created for the sole purpose of expressing hate for their son that 31 people liked.

"They simply want the schools to take action here and to treat this as the serious matter that it is," attorney Larry Crain said.

The family filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against Williamson County Schools after they said repeated attempts to address the matter with administrators were ignored.

"It really doesn't matter whether the speech occurred on school grounds or off campus," Crain said. "The school could have taken reasonable measures to protect their son rather than turn a deaf ear to this."

In a letter from the school district's attorney included in the lawsuit, the taunts were classified as "private speech," protected under the first Amendment, which was why the district went on to say it's "prohibited" from doing anything about it.

"It's a hard thing to know when it's the school's responsibility to be engaged in these kind of things and when it's not," Rodger Dinwiddie, bullying expert and C.E.O of STARS Nashville, said.

However, officials said there is an exception.

"If it does impact a child's ability to learn in the classroom it is an issue of concern for the schools," Dinwiddie said. "And it's certainly an issue of concern that schools want to and try to do something about."

The 8th grader in the case was recently adopted from Ethiopia just a few years ago. His lawyer said he's having to deal with this, while trying to transition into his new life in America.

The concern was not only for him but his younger siblings who were also adopted and could be attending the same school.

Williamson County Schools would not comment on the lawsuit.

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