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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Washington State ACLU Achieves Settlement for Bullying Victim

The ACLU of Washington State announced today a settlement for a former student who had been bullied throughout his junior high and high school years. Below is the ACLU's official announcement.  Our blog has been following this serious problem in this state and across the nation.

January 26, 2012

Contact: Doug Honig, ACLU-WA

206-624-2184

Former Student Gains Major Settlement after Enduring Years of Harassment

A former student who endured severe and persistent harassment throughout junior high and high school has gained a major settlement from the Aberdeen School District, the ACLU of Washington announced today. The ACLU has represented Russell Dickerson III in a lawsuit saying that school district officials were aware of the harassment but failed to take steps reasonably calculated to end it. Under terms of the settlement, Dickerson will receive $100,000 from the district. Additionally, the ACLU will receive $35,000 in legal fees.


“Public school officials must be held accountable when they fail to meet their responsibility to act decisively when a student is subjected to harassment by his peers. This settlement sends a message to school districts statewide to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied,” said Sarah Dunne, ACLU-WA legal director.


“I learned from my parents that you should never give up. You should fight for your rights – you don’t just walk away,” said Dickerson.


Russell Dickerson III, now 20, is an African-American resident of Aberdeen. For six years, from 2003 when he entered junior high until 2009 when he graduated high school, other students harassed Dickerson on the basis of his race, sex, and perceived sexual orientation.

At Miller Junior High, Dickerson was called names by other students and found notes in his backpack and taped to his back calling him “stupid nigger” and “dog.” Students tripped him in the hallways and threw food at him in the cafeteria. In one incident, three students pushed him to the floor in the hallway and smashed a raw egg on his head; only one of the students was disciplined.



At Aberdeen High School, the harassment escalated, with Dickerson subjected to a continuing barrage of viciously derogatory insults about his race, physical appearance, and suspected sexual orientation. Dickerson suffered physical harassment, with other students pinching and fondling his chest, spitting on his head, and throwing objects at him. Although an assistant principal discouraged Dickerson from reporting misconduct by the student’s peers, the student and his parents repeatedly reported incidents of harassment to district administrators, both verbally and in writing. Yet the district failed to take adequate steps to end the harassment.


In 2007 students in the district created a website mocking Dickerson and his perceived sexual orientation, and posted threatening racist comments on it. Students discussed the website at school. Grays Harbor Superior Court issued a no contact order between Dickerson and one of his harassers who had threatened on the website to lynch him, yet Dickerson became the target of retaliatory harassment after reporting the website to school authorities.


The school district’s failure to act created a hostile educational environment for the student. His academic progress was hindered, he was isolated at school, he felt discouraged from using his locker, and he avoided extra-curricular activities that put him in contact with his peers. Further, the student suffered extreme emotional distress, including an inability to concentrate on studies, serious depression, despair, and anxiety.


Filed in December 2010 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, the lawsuit said that the deliberate indifference to ongoing harassment by the school district, which receives federal funds, violated federal law – Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The district’s negligent inaction also violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

ACLU-WA cooperating attorneys Michael Scott, Joseph Sakay, and Alexander Wu of Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson P.S. and ACLU-WA staff attorneys Sarah Dunne and Rose Spidell represented Dickerson.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wanted to tell my experience of bullying in a small town in central WA. Not only was I bullied but so was my little sister who was two grades below me. It's hard to say when it started because there was so much sickening and disturbing actions I had witnessed through middle school and high school. Between the sick narcissistic jocks that thought they "ruled the school" and would trip and tease the kids that had physical or mental disabilities, to the bizarre teachers that witnessed it and acted on it with these students. Our girls basketball coach, who was also the athletic director was "let go" after harassing and walking in the showers after games in the girls locker rooms. My sister was a victim of this mans perverseness. She came early to class one day, he turned to her, with know one else in the class and says" your looking hot today" she couldn't believe what she had heard and tried to ignored it, only for him to say it again. She got up and left the class. So that's just a taste of the sickness that's ruining our schools and kids. I would have sued the school for what happened to me but it was so disturbing I did not want to relive it until I guess now. My most severe encounter with bullying was during my senior year. I was a good student and popular, pretty and well like by everyone. I was head of a medical club that I had started and was a four year tennis varsity athlete. I was taking a photography class being that it was easy and we could get off campus to take pictures. I was in the dark room the developing pictures when my best friends boyfriend came up behind me and started sniffing my hair and back. Then he grabbed my waist from behind and pulled me into him and demanded I show him my "tits"as he tried to go up my shirt. I was so flipped out for one thing it was my best friends boyfriend, and then the other boys that were in the room started in on it with him and kept telling me I was a bitch and why couldn't I just show them! I thought I was going to be raped, I ripped out of his clutch and threw the tongs at them and tried to get out of the room as fast as I could. Which wasn't easy considering it was a revolving door and they were holding it so I couldn't leave. I went strait to my "best friend" who was just down the hall and told her what her boyfriend had done. She looked at me and said, " why do you have to be such a bitch, why do you have to lie" It made me sick and her and I have never been friends since. Then I decided that theses sick twisted soon to be needed to be called out on what they did. I had had enough and after years of watching this group of boys torture students,and then to attack me, that was it. So I went strait to the dean of students office who was also my tennis coach. I tell him whats happened, embarrassed and in tears what they had just done to me. He tells me to sit in his office and he will go talk to them. He comes back and says, " do you really want to do this to them their senior year" is it that big of a deal, are you sure you aren't over reacting. They all said nothing had happened and I was lying. Then the harassment started, everyday I was called a bitch, whore, slut, and anything else you can imagine. At first I tried to ignore it, but it got so bad they started in on my little sister. I went to the office and reported every time I was harassed, it was daily. So much so that they got an officer to sit in the hallways a couple days a week. The were sick of seeing me in the office and didn't make me sign out to leave the school or call my parents, I could just leave if I felt threatened. They just wanted me gone and then the problem would be gone right? No not hardly, nothing good has come from any of their lives, go figure. From what I know they all got into meth after high school and beat a tourist boy in an orchard to death... Good job society on making sociopaths. Its gotten worse not better....