By JOE MANDAK
PITTSBURGH — A woman has filed what experts believe is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Public Schools, claiming her daughter developed anorexia because male students bullied the girl about her weight, forcing her to leave the district.
But those experts — including the head of the National Eating Disorders Association — say linking bullying to anorexia is oversimplification, at best.
“With eating disorders, we say you’re born with a gun and life pulls the trigger,” said Lynn Grefe, chief executive officer of Seattle-based NEDA, who has never heard of a school being sued over such a scenario.
Generally, people who develop anorexia already have issues with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive or perfectionist behavior. Bullying could trigger anorexia in those people but not others who are taunted about their weight, Grefe said.
“The person’s often a real high achiever, and if you put those people in a situation and then their world comes crashing down, they get triggered,” Grefe said.
That’s essentially what’s described in the 10-page federal lawsuit Pittsburgh attorney Edward Olds filed Friday on behalf of an unnamed woman whose middle-school sixth-grader began to be bullied 2006-07 by three boys who called her “fat.”
The girl was in a program for gifted students, made straight A’s and was active in community and volunteer programs, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit contends a guidance counselor did nothing to stop the bullying. The next year, in seventh grade, two other boys joined in the daily harassment.
“Some other students tried to shame the boys about the conduct. However, no faculty member or other school official intervened,” the lawsuit said. Full story.