A New Jersey school district has agreed to pay a $4.2 million settlement lawsuit to the family of a middle school student who was punched in the stomach and paralyzed by another student.
Sawyer Rosenstein was punched on May 16, 2006 and went home that day complaining of pain in his back but nothing that seemed to serious, said Joel Rosenstein to The Record of Woodland Park.
Two days later the middle school student screamed out in his bedroom from pain, “We picked him up and called an ambulance," the father told the newspaper. "He hasn't walked since."
The punch had caused a blood clot that inhibited blood running to Sawyer’s spine and left the boy paralyzed from the waist down.
Prior to the N.J. bully punch, there were claims the bully had violent tendencies and punched another student in the face that same year. The school district failed to keep record of the instance and the attacker was not subject to discipline.
Sawyer Rosenstein even wrote an email to the school about the problems going on, “I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased," he wrote to his guidance counselor at Eric Smith Middle School. "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."
Rosenstein is now an 18-year-old freshman majoring in communication at Syracuse University. Sawyer now focuses on raising awareness to the consequences of bullying in schools.
"I think I became something greater than I ever could have become without it," he said.
Rosenstein’s lawyer, Jeffrey Youngman said “it is a story of triumph and moving on,” adding that Rosenstein refused to "make this a story of 'woe is me.'"
The Ramsey Board of Education released a statement Wednesday denying any wrongdoing and it was the district insurance carriers that decided to move forward in the settlement.
"The district's character education and harassment/intimidation/bullying initiatives and reporting practices are leading edge," the statement said. "All programs in this area far exceed all of the criteria established by the state of New Jersey."