School Bullying and §504 Violations – Settlement Reached
November 2021 — R.D. v. Lake Washington School District — $313,500 settlement – School Bullying and §504 Violations
After a successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 19 depositions, 12 subpoenas, four summary judgment motions, two motions for sanctions, and nearly $1m dollars spent on Lake Washington School District’s defense, the parties agreed to settle R.D.’s claims for $313,500.
R.D. is a child who suffered from a disease that caused her skin to crack, ulcerate, and become infected when she was exposed to cold and damp weather. When she was in Kindergarten, her parents asked her school to let her attend indoor recess during inclement weather, which is their right under §504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act. The school executed a plan, but it appears to have lost it. While Lake Washington School District was assuring R.D.’s family it was providing an indoor recess, R.D. inexplicably suffered some of the worst breakouts of lesions on her hands and feet in her entire life.
At the same time, R.D.’s parents relayed R.D.’s complaints that she was being bullied at school. Although school districts are required to begin bullying investigations within two days, complete them within 10 days, interview all the witnesses, and notify the parents of their right to appeal the findings, LWSD did none of that. Instead, it hired an “investigator,” who took her direction from LWSD’s own counsel. R.D.’s family waited four months for the investigation to begin and four more months for her to conclude. The investigator interviewed none of the witnesses R.D. provided her for reasons she was unable to explain in her deposition. Rather than arrive at any conclusions itself, LWSD had its litigation attorneys decide whether R.D. had been bullied and whether R.D. had responded appropriately. During litigation, LWSD tried to hide records from the family, but Albert Law PLLC eventually found phone records showing the principal talking with the accused-bullies’ mother while refusing to talk to R.D.’s mother.
In 2017, R.D. (represented by a different law firm at the time) made an offer to settle the case for $15,000. LWSD wrote “DENIED” and then proceeded to spend almost $1,000,000 in taxpayer money defending against her claims. LWSD hid more than 120 documents showing teachers, principals, and other parents complaining about the same student “hitting,” “kicking,” and “bullying” students, including R.D. While hiding those documents, it falsely claimed it had “no knowledge” of the student ever bullying anyone else.
R.D.’s federal claims were dismissed in June 2019, before they knew LWSD was hiding documents. Albert Law PLLC appealed the dismissal while re-filing similar claims in state court under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Both were successful. After spending nearly $1m in taxpayer dollars to fight claims R.D.’s family offered to settle for $15k 4 years prior, Lake Washington School District agreed to settle for an additional $313,500.
When school districts respond to bullying claims, they often chose the easiest route rather than the right one. They often side with the parents who are loudest and most intimidating at the expense of the child who is being bullied. They often demonize the other parent and try to suggest they are complainers who will never be content. They hire a fake investigator to conduct a sham investigation designed to help the school district escape accountability, and pin the blame on the parents and bullied student. That comes to a stop when education law attorneys at Albert Law PLLC get involved, as it has proven again and again.