If a school is aware of a student being bullied but does nothing to prevent the bullying, it is reasonably foreseeable that the victim of the bullying might resort to self-harm, even suicide… . Thus, to allege successfully that the victim's suicide was foreseeable [the plaintiff's] complaint should have included facts alleging that the school was aware of the abuse and harassment the victim experienced. The complaint fails to make such allegations. The fact that the students responsible for bullying him had a history of this behavior does not establish the school's knowledge that they continued to be bullies or that the victim was their new victim. The plaintiff provides no facts that any teacher saw or heard the bullying, that [she or her son] told anyone at the school what was happening, or any other fact to support an inference that the school had any knowledge of the situation.
A school with no knowledge of bullying has no reason to believe the anti-bullying policy needs enforcement, let alone that failure to enforce the policy may result in a student's death. Therefore, we cannot conclude that the harm giving rise to the lawsuit could have reasonably been foreseen or anticipated by a person of ordinary intelligence and prudence.
The appeals court also agreed with the trial court's rejection of punitive damages:
Under state law [the plaintiff] would be eligible for punitive damages only if the district court found that the school acted recklessly. A person acts recklessly when the person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of such a nature that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances. The trial court found that the plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that the school was aware the victim might try to hurt himself, or that it was aware but consciously disregarded the risk, and therefore decided punitive damages were not appropriate. The plaintiff points to no facts explaining why the decision to deny punitive damages was an abuse of the trial court's discretion, beyond claiming that the court's determination on the question of recklessness was incorrect. This claim was properly dismissed.
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