Bullying is a harmful act that can cause long-term emotional and physical effects on our children. The law defines bullying as any aggressive, purposeful behavior that’s intended to frighten, threaten, or harm another child. It’s important to understand the distinction between children “picking on” one another and an actual act of bullying. Specifically, bullying can occur in situations such as:
- One student waiting in an area for the express purpose of intimidating another
- Taking money or other personal belongings through force or aggression
- Using intimidation to force a fellow student to complete homework or give answers
- Initiating a physical altercation with another student
Some parents still dismiss bullying, saying it’s a childish lark and normal phase of development. But modern bullying, especially online, has created an atmosphere where students have even turned to suicide and other violent extremes. States and local municipalities have begun to enforce anti-bullying measures to protect other children from harm.
Bullying in Schools: Who’s Liable?
Liability in bullying cases can be hard to assign. Several parties may be held responsible for acts of bullying, from the child him or herself to the parents or the school system. School officials, for instance, are required to create a safe environment for their students at all times. When bullying happens on school property, an attorney may first look at the district’s responsibility. If a school’s teachers or administrators knew about a bullying situation but did nothing to prevent it, they may be charged for any general or special damages.
If the school didn’t know about a bullying situation or the incident didn’t take place on school grounds, liability falls on the child or the child’s parents. A student’s parents may be liable, for example, if they were aware of the misconduct, condoned it, or encouraged the behavior in any way.
A bullied child generally needs to have tangible evidence of suffering or injury to collect on a personal injury claim. He or she must show evidence of physical injury or loss of valuable property. Intangible losses are harder to prove in court, such as suffering purely emotional injuries and distress. Thus, this kind of hardship is less likely to result in damages.
What Are the Legal Repercussions for Bullying?
In light of recent headlines detailing the consequences of bullying, most states have instituted some kind of anti-bullying law. Others are currently considering other forms of legislation.
Texas mandates that school districts make and enforce their own anti-bullying policies. Those who are in violation of school policy may be expelled, be transferred, or face additional disciplinary action. In cases where bullying becomes criminal (theft, defacing public property, assault, etc.), the bully could face time in a juvenile facility.
A Note About Cyber-Bullying
Today’s information age means students face new bullying threats online. Cyberbullying refers to acts that intimidate, harass, or humiliate on the internet. To protect your kids from this phenomenon, consider implementing the following measures:
Monitor social media usage. Without caution, everything your children post will be available to everyone else online. Some users are just looking to harass others, and running into this kind of interaction can be devastating for kids who won’t understand why someone is being mean.
Restrict chat/forum activity. Similar to social media sites, posting on public forums or open chats may be exciting for young kids who feel like they’re interacting with the entire world. Of course, this also makes them a target for bullies who think it’s funny to be mean regardless of the conversation.
For legal action to be taken, these threats must be intense or persistent enough to make the victim feel unsafe. Talk to a personal injury attorney for more info about your options.
Your child’s emotional and physical well-being are of upmost importance. If you feel this is being threatened due to a school’s or parent’s negligence, you may have grounds for a civil lawsuit. Contact our office for a free initial consultation.