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No Place for Hate: Who’s Responsible for Bullying?

In 2012, 20 percent of high school students were bullied (CDC, 2012). It doesn’t take the statistics from elementary and middle schools to see that bullying is a serious problem. Bullies intentionally prey on those perceived to be weak or different. With tactics that include taunts, threats, harassment, and exclusion, victims are often left fearing or expecting harm.

It wasn’t long ago that Georgia became the first state to adopt anti-bullying legislation, prohibiting bullying on school property, buses, and at school-related functions. Unfortunately, due to freedom of speech laws, school jurisdiction does not include cyber-bullying that occurs on technologies and networks that are not school-owned. However, if those behaviors spread into classroom environment, it can there be addressed.

Kids and teens don’t want to be labeled as a snitch or tattler, so they often don’t disclose when they are being harassed. It takes a lot of strength for them to publicize mistreatment. Here are some actions to carry out if your child has been a victim of bullying:

1) Don’t ignore it. And don’t tell your child to ignore the bullying. Chances are, they have tried that approach already. First, ask what methods were attempted to diffuse the situation. Encourage your child to speak to a trusted person in charge.

2) Support your child. Don’t blame your child for being bullied. Question why they are targeted. Is your child socially distanced? Does s/he have a disability or is s/he perceived to be different? Empathize with them and assure them that your involvement will not make the situation worse. Stand by your word. Advise your child to keep a journal or engage in another activity to release their frustrations.

3) Collect details. How serious is the behavior? Who is doing it? Where are the adults while it happens? Gain as much information as you can.

4) Contact necessary parties. Don’t contact the parents of the bully. Organize a face-to-face meeting with adults in charge. Discuss the incidents and your concerns, but allow the administrator or teacher to initiate contact with the other child’s guardian.

5) Be persistent. Send the aforementioned parties thank-you notes summarizing what was discussed and the proposed plan of action. Wait. If they don’t follow through with disciplinary action or counseling, you may need to move up the ladder to more powerful authorities.

Consequences of being bullied include physical or psychological damage. Victims are just as likely to cause harm to others as they are to self, and studies show that childhood victims frequently become bullies and abusers themselves.

If bullying involves injury, assault, weapons, threats, or stalking, law enforcement should be called immediately. The same should be done if cyber-bullying includes threats of violence, pornography, or an invasion of privacy.

All Georgia public schools are state-protected by sovereign immunity, making it difficult for parents to sue. Under immunity, board members, educators, administrators, and school resource officers are free from personal liability if their actions (or lack of action) are not willfully malicious. With these laws in place, it may sometimes be more feasible to name the offending student and/or their guardian in a lawsuit.

McAleer Law can help you best decide the approach to take when pursuing a case. If your child has been a victim of bullying, your family could be overdue compensation for injury, humiliation, and pain and suffering. Contact us at 404-MCALEER for a consultation.