Inside the Seattle Girls’ School lawsuit: Family seeks damages for ‘pervasive’ bullying

South Jackson’s Seattle Girls’ School has a new Head of School. That’s the good news. The bad news is Rafael del Castillo is inheriting a lawsuit against the private all-girls school filed in King County Superior Court last week alleging that administrators stood by while a young girl was repeatedly bullied. The case puts the non-profit in the position of having to prove it did enough to protect a 16-year-old girl from what her lawyer says were emotionally debilitating attacks that have left her client unable to enjoy her skills as a dancer and a piano player and left her suffering “anorexia, depression, anxiety, and back problems.”

The suit seeks monetary damages to be determined by the court. In a statement posted by KING 5, del Castillo said, “We take the issue of bullying, relational aggression and cyber bullying very seriously. We invest extensive time and effort in ongoing education to address any issues of bullying.”

A video interview from KING 5 and a copy of the complaint filed in the lawsuit are below. We have redacted the girl’s last name and removed an identifying detail from the document.


0 thoughts on “Inside the Seattle Girls’ School lawsuit: Family seeks damages for ‘pervasive’ bullying

  1. The current portrayal of Seattle Girls School in the media is inaccurate.

    At Seattle Girls’ School, we take the issue of bullying, relational aggression and cyber bullying very seriously. Since our inception in 2000, our core mission has been and remains, to address head on how we work and collaborate in community with each other. Accordingly, we invest extensive time and effort in ongoing education on these topics to ensure that faculty, staff, parents and students are well educated and equipped to address any issues of bullying.

    Due to this commitment, we provide our parents with a number of resources including our parent and guardian information series; we offer multiple learning opportunities for parents and students to partner with us in understanding bullying, relational aggression and cyber bullying

    The commitment to our students who are entrusted to us is to equip them with the necessary tools and self confidence to combat issues of bullying.

    Through the professional development programming which we provide our faculty and staff we partner with national experts in order to actively identify and openly discuss bullying, relational aggression and cyber bullying. Our faculty, staff and administration value these learning opportunities as we carry forth our goal, which is to be advocates for all students.

    As a close-knit community, we place at the forefront our endless dedication to a safe and healthy environment for all students. Our community expectations for both students and parents are very clear: physical and emotional harassment are unacceptable.
    Please refer to the following links…
    read more
    at will give you a sense of the good work happening at SGS:

    Founded in 2000, the mission of Seattle Girls’ School is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change. Seattle Girls’ School is a member of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and is an Accredited Member of the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools.

  2. In the above statement from SGS, I see the following statements: “provide our parents with a number of resources”; “learning opportunities..[for] understanding bullying”; “equip [students] with necessary tools…to combat issues of bullying”; “actively identify and openly discuss bullying”; “advocates for all students”.

    There is one HUGE, GAPING hole for me: ACCOUNTABILITY. Who is holding the bullying girls accountable? How are they being disciplined? It seems like this statement is saying that there’s a lot of discussion, education, blah blah blah–but not one word about ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING. Yes, you do say that “physical and emotional harassment are unacceptable”. But I find it hard to believe that there would be ongoing problems with bullying at your school were it not for the fact that THE GIRLS KNOW THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT, that it’s a pervasive, accepted part of school life at SGS.

    As a public school parent, my experience is that there is absolutely zero tolerance for bullying. Yes, it’s a large school district, schools are short-staffed and over-subscribed, it’s not perfect…but I’ve heard no anecdotal reports of bullying that have not been addressed with a heavy hand by the school staff/principal/administration.

    If I have a choice between having a good chance that my child’s bully would be held accountable at a FREE public school, versus “discussion and education” at a COSTLY private school (no mention of tuition cost on SGS’ website, but the average financial aid award is $12,000)…well, you get my point.

    I live less than 4 blocks from SGS. I have a 7 year old daughter, and was definitely planning a close look at the school for her middle school years. After hearing about this, there is no way I’ll even consider it. There are plenty of good private school programs in Seattle–I know because we’ve recently been through the middle school process with our older child.

  3. I think many are jumping to conclusions about SGS based on the allegations of this family. How do we know that the the family is not just litigious, opportunistic and/or nuts? It’s not like the school can really come out in the press and tell their side of the story. And krikky123, I’m surprised you’d write off a school based on one, unproven allegation like this.

  4. I see the teachers, headmaster, and students all the time and I gotta say, I can’t imagine that SGS isn’t fully on top of addressing allegations of bullying the moment they arise and taking action to correct them! SGS is all about fostering empowerment among the girls that attend and I believe the professors, headmaster, and parents would take action to correct ANY kind of negative behavior among the student body.

    It is a tough age, and time to be in school; compared to other kids of their age (in this neighborhood and beyond), SGS students are far and above some of the most respectful kids I have met, not only to their elders, but to one another.

    I hope this situation won’t tarnish the past 10 years of success they have had and the excellent reputation the have earned.

  5. This is not litigious or opportunistic, rather courageous and long over due. It’s about time someone bring this ONGOING problem public although it is unfortunate that this abuse was allowed to go on for so long and our children had to suffer at the hand of not only their peers but the adults charged with their protection. This has happened before, this girl is not alone and I hope she has all the support she will need to endure further negativity as outlined in this forum. Such a sad situation.

  6. i spent some time reading through all the comments on the komo story. there are quite a few posts from the plaintiff’s friends (who are current and former students at sgs) and it seems what we are hearing and reading in the media is a very different story from what the plaintiff’s friends had to say.

  7. While I certainly do not condone bullying or violence in any way, shape or form, a pen being tossed at someone’s head is kind of typical school crap and especially typical for snarky girls. Part of the educational process is learning coping skills. What this girl and all other kids in school should learn from this experience is to get a backbone and ignore the bully. That is what life is about. Filing a frivolous lawsuit because your parents have money is not a coping skill.

  8. Physical assault is illegal:

    “. . . one of the bullies grabbed Olivia and kicked her hard in the back”

    “. . . the student with the locker above her would grab Olivia’s head and smash her down; Olivia would not be able to breathe.”

    Bringing suit against an organization that knowingly allowed multiple assaults to occur without calling the police or holding the student accountable in any way, is not frivolous.

  9. At this point in time, these are alleged assaults. The school has full confidence in the legal process.

  10. I agree completely with krikky123. I also have a young daughter, live in the neighborhood and was considering SGS. Until they adopt a ZERO TOLERANCE policy to bullying and violence, they are off my list.

  11. These alleged assaults should have been properly dealt with at that time they occurred – not years later. Shame on you.

  12. SafeandSOund, I think what PurpleLynx is saying is that they aren’t convinced the assaults actually happened.