Schoolgirl bullies cost state $73,000
21 June 2003 - A YOUNG woman who went through two years of hell at the hands of school bullies was yesterday awarded $73,700 damages.
Lisa Jane Eskinazi, now 21, stood up to the bullies by taking her case to court after cruelty at Sandringham Secondary College left her psychologically scarred. She sued the state as it employed the teachers who had a duty to protect her. Ms Eskinazi was a quiet 13-year-old when a group of girls zeroed in on her in 1994. They called her names, wrote graffiti branding her a slut and a hooker, banged her head against a wall, threatened to kill her and even attacked her at a school dance.
Teachers told her to ignore the bullying despite her fears for her safety. Ms Eskinazi said she felt she'd achieved something for all students.
"I couldn't not do something about it,"she said outside the County Court.
"I felt strongly that what happened to me was wrong. I just needed them (the school) to realise that what happened wasn't my fault."
Ms Eskinazi went from an A student to bad grades as girls continually harassed her in 1994-95.
She told a civil trial last year she spent her first two years at high school fearing for her life and in tears every day.
A group of girls started calling her names daily, and escalated to assaults.
She was once knocked out after being pushed into a door.
Graffiti was scratched into tables and walls.
The girls taunted her with threats that they were going to follow her home and kill her.
Ms Eskinazi told the court she was pushed in corridors and rotten apple cores were thrown at her.
A dead huntsman spider was put in her schoolbag.
At a school social in July 1995, she was on the dance floor when a student grabbed her hair, pulled her to the ground, dragged her, then kicked and punched her in the stomach.
When she fled to the toilets, a group of girls followed and, in front of a teacher, told her they were going to kill her.
The next day she was attacked in the school yard, put in a headlock and kicked in the shins. Her head was repeatedly smashed on a door directly opposite the staff room.
She was not allowed to go home after the assault and was told she needed to make new friends.
She left the school but a police report was made. Some students were suspended for several days.
Ms Eskinazi said she had earlier complained to teachers and named the bullies, fearing they would hurt her.
She was told it would blow over if she ignored it.
Her mother, Elsa, complained twice and got the same response.
One teacher told the court she didn't think Ms Eskinazi was a victim of bullying.
Judge Rachelle Lewitan found she had done nothing to provoke the bullying and did not give as good as she got, as the teacher claimed.
Other students told the court "nearly everyone used to call Lisa Jane pretty bad names"and she was often seen crying.
A psychologist told the court that teachers were oblivious to Ms Eskinazi's fear and should have referred her complaints to the principal and police.
Ms Eskinazi suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeplessness, flashbacks and other psychiatric conditions needing continuing treatment.
Judge Lewitan found teachers should have known the bullies would turn violent, and did not follow school rules in handling bullying complaints.
They failed to take her complaints seriously and ensure that she was safe, the judge said.
Judge Lewitan awarded Ms Eskinazi damages of $73,700 for pain and suffering, loss of future earnings and medical expenses.
Schoolgirl bullies cost state $73,000
By ELISSA HUNT
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