Recently, in Buffalo, NY, a 14 year old high school student committed suicide due to repeated instances of bullying by peers due to his sexual orientation. Following a criminal investigation which resulted in no charges filed against the perpetrators, the Williamsville Central School District suspended several teens suspected to have been involved. This tragic event is only the most recent in a long line of bullying instances across the United States.
What is bullying? The CA Department of Education says the following: Bullying is a form of violence. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful. Bullying may be physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing), verbal (taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, threatening), or emotional (spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, extorting, or intimidating). Bullying can occur face-to-face or in the online world.
Bullying is also one or more acts by a pupil or group of pupils directed against another pupil that constitutes sexual harassment, hate violence, or severe or pervasive intentional harassment, threats, or intimidation that is disruptive, causes disorder, and invades the rights of others by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment, and includes acts that are committed personally or by means of an electronic act, as defined.
You may be asking yourself: What can be done in schools with regard to bullying? The CA Education Code provides that each school is required to create a comprehensive school safety plan to include development of a discrimination and harassment policy, as specified, and development of hate crime reporting procedures. Furthermore, the CA Department of Education has created a comprehensive presentation regarding school bullying, and what can be done by parents, teachers, and community partners, available at the following location:
While schools are required to have comprehensive plans in place regarding bullying and ways to deal with bullying, there is no specific legal recourse against schools or school districts regarding failure to "appropriately" address those who are engaging upon the bullying. Know your child's school's policy toward bullying, and attempt to address that policy through parent meetings and stay vigilant. If you believe that your child has been the victim of bullying that is being wholly unaddressed, the attorneys here at Augustin Egelsee can advise you as to appropriate action to take to protect your child.
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