LAWS PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM BULLYING AT SCHOOL

by Alyce B Wittenstein on Aug. 07, 2018

Accident & Injury Civil & Human Rights Other  Education 

Summary: There are laws protecting children from bullying at school. If a child is bullied there is recourse.

CHILDREN BULLIED AT SCHOOL HAVE RIGHTS

When I was a child, bullying at school was rampant, and there wasn’t much that could be done about it.  When parents complained that their child was being bullied at school, there were told things like “boys will be boys,” and that they should teach their child to be more assertive to deal with bullies.  We know now that bullying can lead to depression and even suicide, and there are now laws that protect children from this fate.  In other words, children bullied at school now have rights.  The U.S. Department of Health and human services defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children,” and it must involve “a real or perceived power imbalance.”  It must be a recurring problem, not something that just happens once.  It can be physical, verbal or online (cyberbullying.)

If your child has an unexplained change in behavior such as:

  • Impaired or deteriorating relationships with peers
  • Difficulty making or keeping friends
  • Increased sense of loneliness
  • Increased anxiety levels or panic attacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • A decline in academic achievement

These may be signs that your child is being bullied, you should ask your child and assess whether they are being frank you with or covering something up (out of fear.)  You should investigate by talking to teachers, assessing their response.  Your child may tell you about the bullying, and you should try to get them to provide you with as much detail as possible about what’s been going on.

THERE ARE LAWS TO PROTECT CHILDREN BULLIED AT SCHOOL

THE DIGNITY ACT IN NEW YORK PROTECTS CHILDREN BULLIED AT SCHOOL

The Dignity Act became law in New York State on September 13, 2010.  It amended the State Education Law by creating a new “Article 2 – Dignity for All Students.”  It also amended New York Education Law 801-a regarding instruction on citizenship, character education and civility, as it expanded on the notions of respect for other students and tolerance, to address sensitivity for the relationships between people and their differences, specifically referencing race, weight, ethnic group, national origin, religion, religious practices within a religion, mental or physical capabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Dignity Act went even further, requiring all Board of Education to include language from the Dignity Act in their Codes of Conduct.  It also requires schools to be responsible for collecting and distributing information about any incidents of bullying, harassment, and discrimination that occur.  For more detailed information on the Dignity Act is here.

FEDERAL LAWS PROTECT CHILDREN BULLIED AT SCHOOL

On October 26, 2010 the Federal Office of Civil Rights issued a directive addressing bullying to apply the following laws:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • (Title VI) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin;
    • (Title IX) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II)

School District can now be held liable for peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex or disability when it is serious enough that it creates a “hostile environment” and when harassment is “tolerated, encouraged, not adequately addressed or ignored by school employees.”  A school must take immediate action to investigate and eliminate these conditions.

If your child is being bullied at school, and the problem continues after bringing it to the school’s attention, you need a lawyer that can help you fight for your child’s future.  Call Wittenstein & Wittenstein for a FREE CONSULTATION.

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