A Pennsylvania mother is suing her daughter’s school system because she said classroom bullying caused her daughter to develop anorexia.
The lawsuit alleged that in 6th grade, three boys called the girl “fat” and two more boys joined the taunting during her 7th grade school year. One year later, the girl checked into an in-patient program for an eating disorder. The family is suing Pittsburgh Public Schools because she said the school’s guidance counselor failed to deal with the alleged bullying, which would likely make it the first lawsuit of its kind. [CBS News]Lynn Grefe, head of the National Eating Disorders Association, said the link between bullying and anorexia is tenuous. Dr. Alberto Goldwaser, an expert on mental illnesses from NYU, agreed and told CBS, “We cannot say that anorexia is caused by bullying or brain issues or mother-daughter relationships or any one thing.”
But we’re not so sure—we think the lawsuit has a point. I don’t think bullying causes anorexia. Personally, I believe that the propensity towards eating disorders, like depression, is something we are born with, but I believe bullying exacerbates and inflames a problem a person already has. Perhaps the lawsuit isn’t so much about what causes someone to be anorexic as it is about what constitutes bullying.
Persistently being called “fat” over the course of two years is bullying—whether it comes from the boys who sit next to you in Spanish class or whether it comes from your mother or father. This lawsuit could draw attention to the fact that words do hurt and “fat” (perhaps even “ugly“) should be added to the list of hurtful words that should have consequences if consistently used. A middle school has to help youngsters who are called racial slurs or homophobic names; they should help the ones who are getting bullied over their looks. I’m purely guessing here, but the girl’s school probably thought “fat” was just a mean name that middle school kids call each other. Unfortunately, that girl whose troubles they allegedly mishandled just happened to be a ticking time bomb for an eating disorder.
What do you think? Is suing a school system because bullying allegedly contributed to a girl becoming anorexic too extreme? Or do you think this mother is right to sue?