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Boy's school bullying death: A premises liability issue?

When our children enter the halls of their schools we expect that there will be policies in place to ensure they will be safe as they possibly can be. As parents in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country have learned in recent months, it's impossible to guarantee complete safety from every situation, but isn't it feasible to consider holding institutions accountable for preventing or countering some of the most common sources of school safety, such as bullying?

Many families have horror stories in which their children endured verbal and physical abuse from fellow students while in the halls of their schools or on their playgrounds. Sometimes they end in injury, sometimes even death. Certainly every community is aware of the issue. And stories like that of young Bailey O'Neill only serve to highlight the problem.

For those who may not know, Bailey was, by all accounts, a typical 11-year-old 6th grader in the Philadelphia area. On January 10, an assault occurred on the playground of the school. According to Bailey's dad, it was a case of bullying. He says his son told him that he was pushed by one boy into another one. He alleged that the second boy then punched Bailey. When Bailey tried to walk away, the others wouldn't let him.

Bailey suffered a broken nose and a concussion. He also suffered seizures. Two weeks after the attack, doctors put the boy into an induced coma; a treatment doctors often use to allow the brain to heal from traumatic injury. Early in March, the decision was made to remove Bailey from life support and he died.

At the time this post is written, authorities have not concluded their investigation. They have video of the incident, and while one prosecutor says it certainly appears that an assault occurred, officials haven't concluded whether it was bullying or simply an altercation. The school has expressed its condolences, but hasn't made any apparent statements regarding what happened.

For Bailey's father there's no question. He says his son had no reason to lie about what happened and now he would like to see justice.

Source: CNN, "Parents say bullying led to 12-y3ar-old son's death," Sarah Hoye, March 6, 2013

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