A San Antonio father is suing his son’s classmates — and their parents — for cyberbullying.
The father’s attorney, Justin Nichols, said Monday it’s the first known case filed using Texas’ 2017 anti-bullying legislation known as David’s Law.
The suit against unnamed Hill Middle School students requests an injunction against future cyberbullying and seeks $50,000 in damages for defamation, slander and emotional distress.
It accuses the North East Independent School District students of posting a false online poll naming their classmate, D.R., as one of the students “most likely to shoot up the school.”
D.R.’s father, Derek Rothschild, said the school should have done a better job protecting his son from the false accusations.
“They had sent an email out telling parents that there was no credible threat … but they hadn’t explained that none of the kids named were actually guilty of making any threats against the school,” Rothschild said. “I told (school administrators) that in my opinion, the person in most danger in that school that day was my son, and did they have a special plan to take care of him and make sure he was okay. They really didn’t.”
“I actually regret letting him go, but if we’d kept him out of school it would have made these stupid rumors and lies look true,” Rothschild said.
Later that day, Rothschild said his son made a comment that school officials mistook as a threat, and they punished him with 75 days in alternative school.
“The only reason he’d made jokes was half the kids in the school are looking at him as if he’s guilty, and he felt pressure because of that, and he’s just trying to normalize his day as a young teenager,” Rothschild said.
District spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said North East believes school leaders handled the situation at Hill Middle School properly.
“The District's administrators acted appropriately to investigate the situation and took appropriate actions to address it,” Chancellor said. “The District made it clear at the beginning of the school year that all threats against schools would be subject to disciplinary action.”
Rothschild is going through a grievance process with the district to erase the punishment. In the meantime, he is homeschooling his son.
Nichols said the cyberbullying lawsuit doesn’t name North East because the law requires them to first go through the district grievance process. But he said the district might be added to the suit later.
“Before, parents didn’t have an option to go to court and get some relief. They were left at the school’s mercy. And in this case, we feel that the school didn’t only do nothing — they did something that made the whole situation worse,” Nichols said.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille