A New Jersey school district has settled a lawsuit for $4.2 million with the family of a middle school student who is now bound to a wheel chair after a punch in the stomach by a known school bully.
The family of Sawyer Rosenstein, said they had made several complaints to the Ramsay school district about the bullying, and said that the district knew or should have known the bully had violent tendencies.
According to the suit the known bully had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier but there was no record kept of that incident or other known incidents involving the same attacker, and that he was never subjected to escalating discipline.
The 12-year-old Sawyer had even e-mailed school officials three months prior to the stomach punching incident to notify them he was being bullied and was asking for help.
“I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased,” he wrote to his guidance counselor at the Eric Smith Middle School. “I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”
According to Joel Rosenstein, Sawyers father, the incident occurred on May 16th 2006. The punch caused Sawyer to drop to his knees and then later in the day at home he was complaining of some back pain. Two days later Sawyer started screaming in his bedroom after not being able to move.
“We picked him up and called an ambulance,” the father told The Record of Woodland Park.. “He hasn’t walked since.”
After arriving at the hospital doctors found that the blow to the abdomen caused a clot in a major artery cutting off blood flow to his spine. Sawyer was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Still, in a statement released by the Ramsey school district about the settlement on Wednesday, they claim no wrongdoing in the matter, and that it was the district’s insurers that decided to make the settlement, and the insurers will be responsible for paying the $4.2 million to the family.
“The district’s character education and harassment/intimidation/bullying initiatives and reporting practices are leading edge,” the statement said. “All programs in this area far exceed all of the criteria established by the state of New Jersey.”
Sawyer is now an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse University majoring in communication.