In what appears to be a case of first impression, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge held on Friday, January 6th, 2017, that a student has a right to bring a claim under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act when she is non-discriminatorily harassed, intimidated or bullied at school by teachers and administrators.
“This holding is an important recognition of the rights of students when illegal, biased discrimination is not involved, but the student’s educational environment is nonetheless disrupted by hostile, intimidating or abusive conduct,” says Kevin Costello, a partner at Costello & Mains. “For what we believe to be the first time, a Court has recognized that New Jersey’s state Civil Rights Act – which protects Constitutional liberties such as the right to an appropriate public education, applies to the way in which a student is treated by teachers and administration, even when the conduct is not motivated by a protected classification such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc.”
According to the complaint, the student in this matter alleges that she was harassed and bullied by teachers and administrators at the school. When the defendant asked the Court to dismiss the case, arguing that the New Jersey Civil Rights Act did not apply to such controversies, Costello & Mains opposed the motion. On January 6th, the Court, in ruling on the motion, held that the defendant district could be held accountable under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, given the facts as alleged.
“This is another important victory in the fight for the civil rights of students in New Jersey public schools,” says Costello. “We don’t know what will happen at trial, of course, but the fact that the Court recognized this theory as a valid redress for the type of conduct alleged here is, itself, a victory, no matter what happens at trial.”
Costello & Mains, LLC is a full-state Employment, School Rights and Civil Rights Law Firm. The firm’s trial lawyers practice in all counties in New Jersey, in both state and federal court, fighting against discrimination and harassment based upon sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, creed or religion, pregnancy, age, gender, sex, gender identity or expression, trans status, military status and marital status in workplaces, schools, and places of public accommodation. The firm litigates class actions based upon Wage & Hour violations and represents those retaliated against for whistle-blowing.