Connecticut Law Tribune, September 29, 2014

Tom Mooney has been referenced as a resource for a Connecticut Law Tribune article that focuses on the recent rise of Bullying lawsuits. The article focuses on the allegations of the lawsuits and why parents are concerned with pushing forward the cases, even though the plaintiffs seldom prevail.

Mooney, partner in the Hartford office and author of “A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law,” said the antibullying statute was enhanced this year to cover previously ambiguous areas; still it doesn’t cover all possible scenarios. “Behavior is complex and to look at any behavior through a prism of definition is limiting,” Mooney said. “Answering the question, ‘Is this bullying?’ isn’t the end of the discussion.”

He noted the expanded use of social media complicates the issue. Bullies have a new way to demean and embarrass their victims, one more thing state law doesn’t specifically account for. “If someone taunted me and beat me up, it’s word of mouth,” he said. “Maybe no one else would know today. But you go on Facebook and say horrible things and everyone knows. It’s not that people are worse people; it’s that the implications are more profound.”

Mooney pointed to a similar case winding its way through the New York State Court of Appeals and called it the proverbial “collision between First Amendment rights and bullying.”

According to Mooney’s book, there are three exceptions to governmental immunity in such cases: if school officials’ acts involved “malice, wantonness or intent to injure”; if a statute allows the lawsuit; or if “failure to act” results in “imminent harm” to an identifiable person.

“Right now, if you go on Facebook and say, ‘Tom Mooney is a dope,’ that could be bullying because you caused me emotional harm,” he said. “But you have the right under the First Amendment.”

The article can be accessed here.