U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Beaver County family's appeal on school bullying claim
By David Conti
Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 10:33 a.m.
A Beaver County family lost the final round of a federal court battle over whether Blackhawk School District should have done more to protect their daughters from bullies.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by twins Brittany and Emily Morrow, 20, and their parents, Bradley and Deirdre Morrow of West Mayfield, effectively ending the fight that began in 2010.
Their lawsuit claimed Blackhawk officials violated the sisters' civil rights by refusing to expel a student who repeatedly attacked and harassed them.
“We are, of course, disappointed,” said Morrow family attorney Albert A. Torrence of Beaver, who handled the case pro bono. “The fact that a public school does not have a constitutional duty to protect children in its care comes as a surprise to a lot of people.”
School district administrators and their attorney declined comment.
“I don't think there is a winner or loser in this,” said Blackhawk school director Rich Oswald, former president of the board. “As the courts said, there's only so much you can do. Students can't be watched all hours in the halls.”
The Morrows sued two years after they pulled Brittany and Emily from the district, which they said an administrator suggested after several incidents in 2008. The sisters graduated from Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, Torrence said.
The Morrows could not be reached.
Their lawsuit said a classmate attacked the sisters, calling Brittany a “cracker” and “retarded,” harassing her by phone and Internet, and trying to push her down stairs.
Juvenile court officials declared the student delinquent and ordered her to stay away from the Morrows but incidents continued, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claimed Blackhawk officials had a duty to protect the twins and caused a dangerous situation. Torrence said the family sued even after the sisters left because they didn't want to see other children go through suchtreatment.
“It's my belief that the relationship between a minor child and a public school system is, in fact, custodial,” said Torrence, the solicitor for Beaver Area Schools who has argued cases over the constitutional duty to protect children. “I think the court should extend the duty where the school has actual knowledge that the harm is occurring.”
A federal magistrate in Pittsburgh rejected the claim in 2011, ruling the district did not have any “special relationship” with individual students that requires protection.
In a 10-4 decision, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June ruled the same.
Oswald said the district uses an anti-bullying program common in other districts and polices students the best it can.
“There's always students with problems with each other,” he said. “I think we did all we could. They didn't agree.”
David Conti is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Upper St. Clair woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Pittsburgh police to tear up parking tickets written ‘erroneously’
- Woman sues UPMC over pregnancy drug test
- Pittsburgh’s Rubber Duck to be redeployed to Norfolk
- Sewickley teen’s art helps her deal with challenges of epilepsy
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- Derry quarterback picks Lock Haven