What is bullying?
The accusation started off as a joke, the lawsuit says.
But like so many other situations in the hallways of a middle school, it took on a life of its own — and that’s when San Antonio resident Derek Rothschild says the “most likely to shoot up the school” taunts turned into genuine cyberbullying.
As a result, the law firm representing Rothschild and his son, who is identified only as D.R. in the suit, says it has filed the first suit in the state using the 2017 anti-bullying David’s Law as its legal basis. David’s Law sets policy at the school district level, giving districts jurisdiction over cyberbullying threats and accusations both on and off school property, as long as one or more of the alleged victims or perpetrators attend a school in that district.
Rothschild is suing the students and the parents of the students who he says are responsible for the bullying that has led him to remove his son from Tex Hill Middle School in San Antonio. Neither the students nor their parents are named in the suit, though.
North East Independent School District is not named in the suit, but Rothschild’s lawyer, Justin Nichols, told KSAT that could change soon.
“A lawsuit [against the district] is anticipated after Mr. Rothschild goes through the district’s grievance process,” Nichols said, according to the station.
North East ISD provided the following statement to KENS: “The district’s administrators acted appropriately to investigate the situation and took appropriate actions to address it. The district made it clear at the beginning of the school year that all threats against schools would be subject to disciplinary action.”
Rothschild says in the suit that a January social media conversation among students at Hill Middle focused on singling out students their peers believed were “likely to shoot up the school.” His son was chosen “most likely to shoot up the school” in the poll, he said, according to WOAI.
“His friends had been joking around because they knew it wasn’t serious,” Rothschild said, according to KENS. “And he joked along with them, which then got him pulled from school, placed in school suspension. Everything cascaded from there.”
Then the rumors spread in the hallways about D.R.’s plans to bring a gun to school, from around Jan. 16 through Jan. 18, according to the lawsuit.
“HMS students began to ostracize, avoid, ridicule, taunt, and repeatedly ask D.R. questions related to whether he intended to commit a shooting,” the lawsuit says.
North East ISD officials knew those threats were not real, credible school-shooting threats, but still treated them as though they were, according to school safety protocol, the lawsuit says.
“Went through his backpack, went through his locker, let him back into the student population and ended up punishing him as much, if not more than the very people who started the rumors in the first place,” Nichols said, according to KENS.
“[School administrators] had sent an email saying they knew this wasn’t a credible threat, that it was just a bunch of rumors, but they searched [my son] and searched the whole school and brought the extra security anyway,” Rothschild said, KSAT reported. “I expressed that morning that this was really bullying, and I felt like the only person in danger at school that day was my son.”
Rothschild also said in the suit that his son was never offered counseling after the alleged bullying.
The family is seeking $50,000 in damages and an injunction against the alleged bullies and their parents.