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Judge dismisses federal lawsuit over bullying death

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of a Henderson middle school student who killed herself in late 2013 after finding that the family could not claim the Clark County School District violated their daughter’s constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon on Wednesday remanded the case back to state court, though he expressed “no opinion whether the defendants may be liable under some other source of law.”

Jason and Jennifer Lamberth sued the district last year after discovering their seventh-grade daughter Hailee Lamberth suffered months of bullying at White Middle School in Henderson before taking her own life in December 2013.

The parents claimed school administrators and the district failed to notify them of the reported bullying and sued them for wrongful death and negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and violations of the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In his decision, Gordon ruled the Lamberths did not have solid ground to claim due process violations since federal law does not impose a duty on the district to protect Hailee from bullying. He also ruled the Constitution did not guarantee a right on Hailee or her parents for governmental assistance to prevent her suicide.

“The Lamberths do not allege any affirmative action by any of the defendants,” Gordon wrote. “They allege only inaction.”

However, “The remaining claims raise novel issues of Nevada state law, including whether suicide constitutes a superseding intervening act,” he added. “The potential liability of state actors under state law for their alleged inaction is best resolved by the Nevada courts.”

A spokeswoman for the district said officials do not comment on pending litigation.

Allen Lichtenstein, a Las Vegas attorney representing the Lamberths, said the family “obviously” was disappointed and disagreed with Gordon’s ruling.

“His arguments seemed to be that inaction is not the same as action,” Lichtenstein said. “As we’ve gone through this case, we’ve seen numerous decisions made by school personnel that constitute action.

“Those decisions to do something or handle something in a certain way, it is our belief, constitute actions. Those should be covered under civil rights statutes.”

Contact Neal Morton at nmorton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton

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