Court to decide if bullied student's discrimination suit will proceed

Mike DeNardo
November 13, 2018 - 3:32 pm
Wooden gavel in courtroom

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Commonwealth Court is considering whether a bullied student's discrimination suit against the school district should be allowed to go forward.  

At issue is whether a bullied fourth grade student at William C. Bryant Elementary School in the Cobbs Creek section of the city in 2011, should be allowed to sue the Philadelphia School District on grounds that he should have been protected under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.  

According to the suit, the 8-year-old boy was harassed because of his race and gender nonconformity and sexually assaulted in the school bathroom.  

A 2014 discrimination suit claimed the school district should have protected him, but it was tossed out of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court because it was not filed within the required 180-day time period. 
On Tuesday, Commonwealth Court heard David Berney's, the student's attorney, appeal of that ruling.

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"We're saying that the lower court committed reversible error and this court should remand the case back to the lower court for a full trial. We were only allowed to put on half of our case, and then the court dismissed the case," said Berney.

Bruce Merenstein, an attorney for the school district argued the boy's mother was able to file on time but she didn't, so the trial court got it right.

There's no word on when the appellate court will rule.

Berney says if his side prevails, it would establish for the first time in Pennsylvania that school districts would be required to protect children from discriminatory student-on-student harassment.

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CORRECTION: In a previous version of this stroy, Bruce Merenstein's name was misspelled.