A lawsuit has been brought against the town which sheds light on the case and again raises the question of whether the school district should share the blame in the teenager’s decision to take his life.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Bart’s parents, Anna Izabela Palosz and Franciszek Palosz, claims school staff were well aware of bullying he endured at school for years, yet did not follow mandatory anti-bullying policies, a failure they claim contributed to their son’s death.
School documents that indicate what officials did know about Bart’s history, undisclosed until now, have been revealed in filings in state Superior Court in Stamford. They include a record of Bart in the district’s “sharings” program, which details important information for Greenwich High staff about incoming ninth-graders.
- “The middle school sharings document is a smoking gun,” said David Golub, the attorney representing the Paloszes. “It shows that the school system knew, but ignored” the Board of Education’s anti-bullying procedures.
Bart is described in the sharings document as a “very socially awkward” student who was bullied regularly during his years at Western Middle School but did not tell anyone about it. The teenager was “annoying” to his peers and would stare at them, but he wanted to be liked and needed to be connected, the document states.
“Social work needed” was written on the form. It was a recommendation that was never acted upon, according to the lawsuit.
School records show that the bullying of Bart included name-calling and teasing, repeated incidents of property theft and hitting and kicking from classmates, according to the lawsuit.
Bart was hit in the head with a locker — an injury that required stitches — and had his shoelaces tied together, according to the sharings document.
- “I wanted to make you aware that Bart was pretty severely bullied in middle school,” his guidance counselor wrote in a November 2012 email to Bart’s classroom teachers when he was in ninth grade, another new revelation contained in the lawsuit. “He would not report any of the incidents to the school, so the only way it was brought to light was if it was observed or if he told at home.”Lawyers for the Paloszes and the town tried for many months to negotiate a settlement, but they could not come to terms. The lawsuit had to be filed before a two-year statute of limitation from the date of Bart’s death went into effect on Aug. 27.
“We feel this lawsuit is important so that other students in Greenwich don’t suffer the same kind of treatment that Bart did,” the Palosz family said in a statement. “It is our hope that this lawsuit will result in changes to how the Greenwich school system responds to students in need of help so that there will be no more needless deaths.”
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages in excess of $15,000, the threshold for filing in the court. The complaint marks the first legal action brought against the district and town related to Bart’s death.
School and municipal officials have until Sept. 8 to respond.