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Bullying Laws: Your Child Has Rights

Who's Who Top LawyersAll fifty states have passed school anti-bullying legislation. In addition, bullying occurring at any institution that receives federal financial assistance from the Department of Education, which includes most elementary and secondary schools, may also “trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal antidiscrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).” (see OCR “Dear Colleague Letter”, October 26, 2010).

On October 26, 2010, OCR published its Dear Colleague Letter addressing its role in the movement against bullying culture and the responsibility of educational institutions to maintain a safe learning environment for all students. Here is part of what OCR stated:

“The statutes that OCR enforces include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504); and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II). Section 504 and Title II prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. School districts may violate these civil rights statutes and the Department’s implementing regulations when peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability is sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment and such harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees.” (id.) (footnotes omitted).

“A school is responsible for addressing harassment incidents about which it knows or reasonably should have known.” (id.)

“If an investigation reveals that discriminatory harassment has occurred, a school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.” (id.)

“These steps should not penalize the student who was harassed. For example, any separation of the target from an alleged harasser should be designed to minimize the burden on the target’s educational program (e.g. not requiring the target to change his or her class schedule).” (id.)

The Impact of Bullying

Bullying affects not only the child being harassed, but the entire family. Parents feel powerless and distraught that they cannot help their beloved child. Unable to effectively penetrate the social dynamic that supports bullying culture, adults are often at a loss to know the appropriate way to respond. Siblings can also be impacted, dealing with emotions of guilt, shame and fear all at once. But, of course, it is the bullied child who suffers the most.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “bullying” is defined as:

“unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has potential to be repeated, over time.” (see www.stopbullying.gov).

 
The impact of bullying upon vulnerable children is a significant societal problem. Bullying, which occurs in a variety of forms, can include physical or verbal actions, isolation or humiliation and so-called “cyberbullying”, which encompasses bullying activities through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices and often includes the use of social media.

According to studies, persistent bullying has been linked to social adjustment disorders in its victims, impaired relationships with peers, difficulty in making friends, increased sense of loneliness, increased anxiety levels, higher rates of eating disorders and aggressive-impulsive behavior problems, greater risk of developing self-esteem problems, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, lower academic achievement and higher rates of truancy and disciplinary problems (see U.S. Department of Education, Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies, Introduction, pgs. 1-3 [2011]).

In other words, it’s a big problem.

Bullying In School: You Are Not Alone

As a law firm with a practice area focused on Bullying and Student Peer to Peer Harassment, we have spoken to many parents whose children have experienced bullying in its many forms: the rogue bully who targets their child; the clique of bullies; even bullying by teachers. We have helped parents address physical bullying, verbal and emotional bullying, cyberbullying, bullying based on race, sex, and disability. We have counseled parents on how to interact with the school district and administration officials, some of whom are caring but ineffective, and some of whom just do not react, or do not react with the urgency necessary to quickly resolve the bullying situation.

In assisting these parents, many of whom were not in a position to hire an attorney, we developed a set of practical suggestions on how parents should approach a bullying situation and the school district officials obligated to resolve it. The feedback that we received from many grateful parents was that these common-sense suggestions were very helpful and effective in improving the child’s situation.

This is how Saccocio’s “Stop Bullying Now” Parents’ Toolkit was born. We wanted to create a product that was effective, affordable, and easy to use. We developed a user-friendly flow chart system that provides practical and helpful information and suggestions. We also added to our toolkit the insights of a clinical psychologist, who provides practical advice for both parents and their bullied children. Finally, we created our “Bully 911 Card”, a card which can be carried by the child that provides them with an easy to apply strategy for dealing with bullies on one side, and a request for help on the other side that can be handed to any adult.

We hope that you like Saccocio’s “Stop Bullying Now” Parents’ Toolkit. Click on the link for additional product information and ordering instructions.

Choosing Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC

We are one of the only law firms in the country with a practice area focused on Bullying and Student Peer to Peer Harassment, and we have seen that Bullying affects not only the child being harassed, but the entire family. We strive to treat every inquiry and every child that is a victim of Bullying with great compassion. It is our mission to protect the legal rights of Bullying victims, and to pursue the best possible outcome for them.

We also recognize the impact of bullying upon vulnerable children is a significant societal problem, that does discriminate based on income. For this reason, we are one of the only law firms in the country to have developed a Toolkit specifically designed to provide assistance for those not in a financial position to retain an attorney.

Remember, you are not alone. We are here to help. If you need assistance, call today.

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Title IX, Student Misconduct, and Bullying Inquiries
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