Student Paralyzed by Bully Receives $ 4.2 Million Settlement
Sawyer Rosenstein has just received a $4.2 million settlement from the New Jersey School District. The teen was paralyzed after a known bully punched him in the abdomen.
On May 16, 2006, Sawyer, then 12 was attacked and punched in the stomach by a school bully. When he came home that day, he complained of back pains but otherwise felt fine.
Two days after the incident, the boy’s legs suddenly gave out.
“We picked him up and called an ambulance,” his father recounted. “He hasn’t walked since.”
The strong blow had caused a blood clot to form, which eventually stopped blood supply to his spine. This rare injury has caused Sawyer to be paralyzed from waist down since the attack.
The family sued the school for failing to comply with the state’s anti-bullying law. Three months before the incident, Sawyer emailed school officials for help.
The precocious boy wrote to his guidance counselor, “I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased. I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”
Additionally, the lawsuit claimed that the same bully had also punched another boy on a school bus. The school allegedly did not keep a record of this incident nor was there any proof of punishment for the attacker.
Despite the settlement, the school district denied any wrongdoing in the situation. “The district’s character education and harassment/intimidation/bullying initiatives and reporting practices are leading edge,” the statement explained. “All programs in this area far exceed all of the criteria established by the state of New Jersey.”
Sawyer is now an 18-year-old freshman in Syracuse University. After he was paralyzed, he gave up on his dream to become an actor and instead, joined space camp. After attending the space shuttle launch last year, he was inspired to major in Communications.
Rising above his situation, Sawyer has been an active advocate for anti-bullying. “I think I became something greater than I ever could have become without it,” he explained. “It is a story of triumph and moving on.”
The family has also settled a claim against the bully, although the terms are confidential.
The settlement comes at a time when the anti-bullying campaign gets a renewed voice with the new documentary “Bully”. The film director Lee Hirsch was inspired to create this film after hearing about two 11-year-old boys, Carl Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera who took their lives as a result of chronic bullying.
Watch Sawyer’s amazing Challenger Center interview in 2010.