Parents sue son's school after allegations of systematic bullying

Next with Kyle Clark. 9NEWS @ 9. 1/8/2017

KUSA - A problem that plagues close to a third of all 6th through 12th graders has led a Denver couple to sue their 13-year-old son’s school, claiming the school didn’t do enough to protect the boy from constant bullying.

The lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court late last year, will be closely watched by private school officials all over the state at a time when more and more bullying lawsuits are being filed by angry parents.

In an effort to protect their son’s identity, Tom and Dru Ahlborg only name their son by the initials L.A. in the lawsuit against Montessori School of Denver.

In their first interview since filing the suit, the Ahlborgs told 9Wants to Know they brought this to court in part to bring more attention to how schools deal with bullying.

“We don’t want this to happen to the next child,” Dru said.

Her son started attending Montessori School of Denver at the age of 3. She thought he’d only stay there for a year or two, yet she and Tom quickly fell in love with the school.

Tom became a member of the school’s board and Dru became a teacher.

Both say they had no problems with the school until last year when they found out a 12-year-old had started to harass their son.

They say the school failed to notify them right away when the student tried to force the boy into a sink.

Near the end of the school year, the Ahlborgs learned that students at the school had started to systematically bully the boy.

“They stuffed him into lockers and pushed him into the girl’s restroom,” Tom said.

Eventually, the boy confessed to his parents he had thought about harming himself.  

“To see him go through the anxiety and the fear on a daily basis is hard,” Dru explained.

“I feel helpless. You just want to hug him, especially when he starts talking about hurting himself. I don’t want to lose my son,” she added.

When the bullying continued into 2016, the Ahlborgs decided they had enough. 

“It appeared as if [school administrators] were waiting for us to go away,” Tom said.  Most of their anger arises from their claim the school did little to prevent the bullying.

“We don’t believe that any significant consequences have actually been issued,” Tom said.

In a written statement sent to 9NEWS, the school said, “Montessori School of Denver denies the allegations brought by a former board member. The school does not tolerate bullying, and in the best interests of the children and families in our community, we will not discuss the allegations publicly.”

Recently, a Denver judge moved the case into arbitration where it’s now likely an independent arbiter will decide the merits of the case.

Either way, 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson said the case will be closely watched, particularly by officials in private schools where the law allows more leeway for civil lawsuits.

“Public school officials are largely immune from anti-bullying lawsuits, but private schools like Montessori School of Denver are not,” he said.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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