Bullies are as common in schools as bad lunches and homework excuses. Bullying will probably never go away completely, but over the past few years school districts have started taking affirmative steps to curb it.
Bullying can cause a child both physical injury and emotional trauma. As a parent, it’s your job to make sure cases of bullying are nipped in the bud. Below, we’ve included a few things to keep in mind when dealing with a bully.
Talk to your child
The first step in putting an end to bullying is having open communications with your child. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking to you about any issues, including bullying. Your children should understand that bullying is not their fault and that it’s not o.k. for it to occur. Alternatively, be on the lookout for aggressive or unruly behavior from your child. They may be signs that your child is a bully.
Is it online?
Remember that bullying isn’t all black eyes and wedgies. Now that kids spend increasing amounts of time online, a lot of bullying occurs on social media sites, instant messaging, and email. You should keep an eye on your children’s online activity to make sure cyberbullying isn’t taking place.
Atlanta schools are on the lookout for online bullying as well. The DeKalb County School District’s student code of conduct covers both cyberstalking and cyberbullying in addition to face-to-face bullying. That includes “willful, hostile, and repeated harassment and intimidation” of a person through all online technologies. Fulton County School District prohibits written bullying in its student code of conduct as well.
Report the incident
If you become aware that your child is being bullied, the next step is to notify the school. In 2010, Georgia legislators passed an anti-bullying law, requiring school districts to develop policies to address cases of bullying. Both Fulton and DeKalb County School Districts have reporting procedures in place to help stop bullying. Fulton School District’s student code of conduct encourages any parent, guardian, student, or teacher who becomes aware of bullying to report it to school administrators.
No students will be penalized for reporting cases of bullying, unless they knowingly file a false report. A Disciplinary Hearing Officer will then look into the allegations. If the allegations are found to be true, sanctions, like suspension, will be applied. Fulton County School District has a three-strikes policy for bullies: if a hearing officer finds that a student in grades 6 through 12 has committed a bullying offense for the third time in a school year, the student will be assigned to an alternative education program.
If all else fails
If school administrators ignore your reports, the district fails to take disciplinary action, or the bullying continues you may want to take legal action. If your child was physically or emotionally injured by a bully, you may be able to bring a personal injury suit against the bully’s family or the school for failing to act.
If the bully targeted your child for his or her race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion and the school failed to address the bullying, you may be able to sue the school for civil rights violations. Although no federal law specifically adresses bullying, certain federal civil rights laws, including Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, can be applied to cases of discriminatory bullying.
If you have any questions about a case of bullying or bullying laws in general, you may want to consult with an attorney.
The post is part of FindLaw’s Legal U series. We are working to help you learn what to do in your city to cope with some of the legal problems, questions, or issues that come up in daily life.
- Find an Atlanta Family Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Family Law (FindLaw)
- Cyber Bullying (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- How to Deal With a Bully in Chicago — Online or On the Ground (Legal U, FindLaw’s Chicago Family Law Blog)