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Helmut Schmidt, Published December 30 2010

Bullying case settled out of court

The Fargo School District has paid $300,000 in damages and attorney’s fees as part of an out-of-court settlement with a former student over allegations that he was repeatedly bullied by classmates.

Terms of the settlement include payments to the former student of $190,600 and $109,400 to his lawyer, according to an e-mail Wednesday from Tiffany L. Johnson, the district’s attorney.

The North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, a government self-insurance pool in which the School District is a member, has paid the claim, Johnson wrote.

A tentative deal in the case was reached in mediation Nov. 30, and some aspects of it became public earlier this month.

Pat Monson, attorney for the plaintiff, said the district had also agreed to:

  • Train teachers and staff on how to recognize and deal with bullying.

  • Provide programs and curriculum on bullying for students at all grade levels.

    “The Fargo Public School District is committed to developing strong anti-bullying programs geared at preventing bullying before it occurs and dealing with the effects of bullying if it does occur,” Johnson wrote in her e-mail to The Forum. “The district is working with parents, the community, other educators and legislators in its ongoing efforts to create effective anti-bullying policies and prevention programs.”

    The student, now 21, had been bullied from the fifth through the ninth grades, Johnson wrote.

    He had left the Fargo public school system for a time but returned to graduate from high school in the School District, Monson said.

    Monson said her client thought the settlement was fair and was happy with the district’s commitment to be more proactive in dealing with bullying.

    A lawsuit in the case was served on the district in 2008 but wasn’t filed in Cass County District Court until February of this year.

    The lawsuit accused the district of not properly responding to repeated complaints about the bullying and not doing enough to punish the perpetrators.

    The lawsuit claimed the tormenting was physical at times, with the student on many occasions given black eyes and swollen lips by classmates.

    Monson said the young man still suffers the emotional effects of the abuse and is dealing with ongoing depression.

    Fargo Schools Superintendent Rick Buresh said the district has a team of parents and staff studying and working on ways to deal with bullying. They also will work with the former student’s family, he said.

    Monson said her client is still in North Dakota and attending school outside of Fargo.


    Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583