Schools Must Provide A Safe Environment For Children. When They Don't, They Must Face Legal Consequences.

Bullying and Assault Injuries

Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior between school aged children. It can be physical, verbal, psychological, and/or electronic. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to be considered bullying, the aggressive behavior must include:

1. An Imbalance of Power: This may be physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm other kids.

2. Repetition: Behaviors must happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

If your child is being bullied he or she may have an increased risk of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and problems sleeping. Even thoughts of self-harm and suicide can occur in children being bullied either in school or during their normal activities away from home.

Since school isn’t safe for them, their grades often suffer. Victims more often miss, skip, or drop out of school or are punished with detention or suspension. They may be more prone to alcohol or drug use, even violence if they attempt retaliation.

The Warning Signs that Your Child is Being Bullied

Warning signs may be vague or mirror other problems your child might be having. The thing to remember is that your child probably won’t tell you they’re being harassed. They may be embarrassed or ashamed. Even afraid.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following warning signs that your child is being bullied. If you notice them happening, it’s probably time for a talk.

  • Lost or destroyed clothing, electronics, or other personal belongings.
  • Abrupt loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.
  • Poor performance in the classroom or reluctance to go to school.
  • Headaches, stomach aches, or other physical complaints.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Change in eating habits.
  • Regular distress after spending time online or on his or her phone without a reasonable explanation.
  • Feelings of helplessness or low self-esteem.
  • Self-destructive behavior such as running away from home.

How to Help a Child Being Bullied

The best thing you can do for your child is to take the situation seriously. Here are some suggestions by the Mayo Clinic as to how to handle the situation:

  • Remain calm and listen to your child in a loving and supportive manner. Reassure them by understanding their situation and reminding them that they are not to blame for being bullied.
  • Get the details of the bullying from your child. When does it occur and by whom? Has your child tried to stop the bullying? What seemed to work and what didn’t. Ask them what they think needs to be done to help them feel safe.
  • It’s best not to promote retaliation. See if your child can walk away, ignore the bully, or stick with friends where the bullying happens most often. Most important, have him or her speak to a teacher, coach, or administrator at school about the situation and ask for help.
  • Be aware of how your child uses technology: the internet, social media, and phones. And don’t automatically take away internet privileges if your child is being cyberbullied. If they think you’ll do that, they won’t report any improper incidents to you.
  • Most importantly, build your child’s confidence. Let him or her know the importance of building friendships in school. Get them involved in activities, whether it’s sports, music, the arts, or school government. Make sure they get involved in activities that play to their strengths and talents.

Kids who are active and productive are happy in school and less prone to the perverse actions of bullies. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to even the most active or well-adjusted kids. Be aware that the schools have responsibilities to their students regarding bullying. If you have a problem with your child, it’s good to know how schools in the state of California handle bullying.

California Anti-Bullying Laws and the Schools’ Responsibility

States have taken action to protect children and prevent bullying with laws and policies that guide school districts. Each state is different in its approach, but equally concerned about the seriousness of bullying and its consequences for kids.

Here in California, we use the terms discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying to describe what our laws and policies, including cyberbullying, are about.

California specifically lists the following groups under its anti-bullying laws and regulations:

  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Gender Identity
  • Gender Expression
  • Nationality
  • Race or Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics

How seriously does the state of California take the bullying of our children? It has 60 laws and regulations that cover bullying. And California schools can implement anti-bullying policies by using sample policies and action plan guides at the California Department of Education website.

State law requires California school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying, including off campus cyberbullying or any electronic act originating on or off the school campus. These policies must issue statements prohibiting harassment, intimidation, and bullying. They must have procedures in place for reporting incidences, publications on anti-bullying laws, resources for at risk kids such as LGBTQ and protections for complainants from retaliation.

Teacher, coach, and administration training is also encouraged by California law. The training includes identifying acts of bullying and implementing strategies to deal with bullying and cyberbullying.

Can You Sue the School District?

If your child suffers from bullying at school and you don’t think the school has done enough to help him or her, call us before you file a claim with the district. This is especially true if you’re filing against a public school system. That’s because a public school is a government entity, subject to special rules and procedures.

You must be very careful how you describe the way an injury happened. You must put the government on notice of all the possible theories of liability that you intend to pursue. The courts are very strict on this and may dismiss your claim if it doesn’t describe a particular theory of liability.

At Case Barnett, we specialize in Child Injury Law, including bullying, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and cyberbullying. We can help you get the compensation you deserve if your child is injured by a bully at school. You’ll also be doing your community a service by making your school safer as a result of your lawsuit.

If you have questions or think you might have to sue your school district, give us a call. We can be reached at 949.861.2990 or request a consult here.