The Plight of Bullies and their Victims

Connecticut enacted legislation in 2002 regarding bullying in the schools. This a link to the law:
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/lcoamd/2008lco05291-r00-amd.htm

The law is, at least, a first step and gets the problem out in the open. If you have read the link, you know that bullying is defined as “any overt acts by a student or group of students directed against another student with the intent to ridicule, humiliate or intimidate the other student while on school grounds or at a school sponsored activity, which acts are repeated against the student over time.”

Still, I am disappointed that the law stops short of uniformly requiring a response designed to prevent the conduct. The statute requires a policy, makes reporting incidents easier, allows anonymity, and it requires teachers and staff to report incidents to the school administration.

What must the administration do when an incident occurs? This is where the law breaks down. The school has to investigate written reports and “review” anonymous reports. The school must have an “intervention strategy” for bullying and there must be language in a school’s code of conduct that concerns bullying. What must the code of conduct say about sanctions for bullying? The law is silent, except to say that the bully’s parents and the victim’s parents must be notified of “verified acts of bullying.” The notice is to include a description of what the school staff did to respond to the bullying. Note, there is a total absence in the statute of reference to consequences.

There is a requirement that the school keep careful records of “verified acts” of bullying. This may eventually have the effect of causing a strict state-wide anti-bullying policy. For example, I represented a child who was seriously injured when assaulted by another student. If the current law predated the incident at issue in the case, I looked to discover any other acts of “verified bullying” perpetrated by the bully or his designates that were recorded, per the statute. This information, in my opinion, is evidence supporting a claim that the school administration acted negligently in failing to provide a safe school environment for the victim.

What do we do now? The problem is not waiting for large money damages verdicts against school systems to sensitize schools to this problem. So, what can be done for children who face this kind of juvenile terrorism each day at school? I recently helped a victim and parents obtain a “safety transfer” to another school with transportation furnished by the local educational authority after that child had been assaulted by a bully.

I believe that having legal counsel, which implies readiness to act and serious commitment to achieving desired results, increases the likelihood of accommodations being agreed to or being won at a hearing. This office also accepts cases where we are asked to protect the rights of a student accused of being a bully. Sometimes, the bully is entitled to the protection of IDEA and a Manifestation Determination must be made. Maybe, the Change of Placement Rule limits some forms of discipline.

Whatever your child’s role, please schedule a free half hour consultation with me on this topic if it impacts you or your child(ren)’s lives.

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