Shively v. Green Local School District Board of Education
This federal civil rights lawsuit was filed by Lisa Shively on behalf of her daughter, T.S., a 17-year old Jewish girl who stopped attending public school in Northeast Ohio after enduring over four years of anti-Semitic and gender-based harassment with virtually no intervention by school officials. T.S. was one of the few Jewish students in Green Local School District. Her school peers began harassing her with anti-Semitic slurs and physical abuse in sixth grade. They regularly called her a “dirty Jew” or “Hitler” and told her she’d “rot in Hell” because she didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. T.S. was also physically assaulted on a regular basis—twice to the point of requiring visits to a hospital—and ultimately received death threats.
The bullying escalated in high school and included both anti-Semitic and gender-based harassment. Soon after beginning ninth grade, several students started “slut-shaming” T.S., creating a Facebook page entitled, “ If you think [T.S.] is a whore and needs to go back to 8th grade, join!” Later, two other students created a “kill list” targeting T.S. Although school officials assured T.S.’s mother that the perpetrators of the “kill list” would never set foot in the high school again, T.S. saw one of the perpetrators in the cafeteria just a few weeks after the incident.
T.S.’s mother complained on numerous occasions to school officials, including the district’s superintendents. Despite these complaints, the school district failed to enforce its own rules against bullying, giving students license to bully with impunity, and enabling the pattern of abuse to persist. T.S. was severely traumatized as a result.
The lawsuit was filed by Ohio counsel in 2011, but was stayed during the pendency of an interlocutory appeal on immunity issues. T.S. obtained a favorable decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on August 27, 2014. The defendants filed a petition for rehearing en banc, which was denied on October 24, 2014. The case was remanded to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
After the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, Public Justice joined the case. On June 8, 2015, the school board voted to approve a settlement under which the school district paid $500,000 and agreed to have the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) review its bullying, harassment, and intimidation policies, and invited OCR to provide anti-bullying training to all district staff.
- Adele Kimmel
Ken Myers of Law Offices of Kenneth D. Myers
Chris Thorman and Brendan Healy of Thorman Petrov Griffin