If Your Child is Being Bullied, School Policy Can Help
by Jeffrey P. Hintermeister
Since 1999, every state has passed laws to address the problem of school bullying. Public awareness about bullying and the harm it causes has increased, and many school districts have adopted antibullying policies. Yet bullying continues to be a problem. To provide a better understanding for how schools are adapting to combat bullying, let’s look at the components of a typical anti-bullying policy and highlight recent trends.
Anti-bullying laws and policies differ from one state to another. In some cases, different schools in the same state could have different anti-bullying policies. These laws and policies are adopted at the state and local level. Ideally, every school should have a written anti-bullying policy. Typical provisions include:
- A statement prohibiting bullying.
- A definition of terms.
- The procedure for reporting bullying incidents.
- The procedure for investigating bullying incidents.
- A list of responses and options available if there has been a violation of the school’s policy.
Where to find the anti-bullying policy for your child’s school.
Most school anti-bullying policies are posted on the internet and can generally be found on the school’s website. Recent trends have shown that schools are taking steps to increase awareness of these policies to make them more accessible to parents, students and the public at large. In addition, schools may be required to file statistical reports with the relevant school district or state agency. This may include reporting the number of bullying incidents by category, such as physical bullying, verbal bullying and electronic communications bullying - commonly known as cyberbullying.
Antibullying policies have changed over time. In addition to the basic provisions noted above, some schools encourage parental involvement to help eliminate bullying which includes education efforts for parents and students alike.
Bullying can have long-lasting influence on children.
When a child is bullied in a physical way, the injury may be apparent. If a child gets a bloody nose, you can see the physical harm, but the mental harm may not be apparent. Victims of bullying can experience severe and lasting emotional harm such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Bullying has even been known to cause students to commit suicide. Incorporating provisions on victim assistance, such as counseling and treatment for mental health issues, is becoming more common.
Preventing bullying in the first instance is the primary goal of a good policy. Unfortunately, bullying can happen no matter how many steps a school takes to prevent it. Thankfully, many school policies are progressing to require access to counseling and other mental health treatment.
How schools are dealing with cyberbullying.
Targets of bullying can now be threatened, harassed and ridiculed 24 hours a day by text and social media. This can be a very vicious and destructive form of bullying. Schools recognize that cyberbullying causes harm to the student’s academic performance and ability to participate in school activities and is destructive to the student body as a whole.
Even though cyberbullying might actually occur off-campus, many schools have begun adopting policies to prevent this digital form of online bullying. This is because, while the bully may have uploaded the offending material outside of school, the post can still be viewed and circulated by students who are on campus. As a result, good anti-bullying policies are being updated to address this new online threat.
Anti-bullying policies serve an important role in protecting students from abuse. When a good anti-bullying policy is followed and enforced, it can make a huge difference in a student’s life.
Jeff Hintermeister is the managing attorney for the Indianapolis office of O'Koon Hintermeister, PLLC. Jeff's practice includes a broad range of civil litigation and trial work, including business litigation, personal injury and alternative dispute resolution.
This is not intended to be legal advice. States laws can vary. Please contact your provider law firm for any legal advice or assistance.