School Bullying Lawyer and Harassment Attorney
Bullying and harassment of elementary, middle school, and high school students can be an emotional and even dangerous problem for children and parents. Our firm is committed to helping parents end bullying at schools, and to holding school administrators accountable when they fail to stop bullying.
Harassment is similar to but different from bullying. Whereas bullying is characterized by repeated conduct targeting a student, harassment occurs whenever a student is targeted for mistreatment due specifically to his or her religion, ethnicity, race, gender, national origin, or other protected status. Incidents of harassment are often, but not always, bullying incidents as well.
Today, school bullying and harassment can take place in two primary places – at schools, and online.
Bullying and Harassment at Schools
Bullying and harassment have long been an issue at many schools. Fortunately, today, most schools have adopted strict anti-bullying and anti-harassment rules and regulations, often, with “zero tolerance” measures.
As part of these rules and regulations, specific procedures typically must be when a bullying or harassment claim is made, with the goal of determining whether bullying or harassment occurred, and if it did, that appropriate action or punishment that must be taken against the perpetrator so that such action will not happen again. The underlying goal of these policies is that all students should be entitled to an education free of bullying or harassment.
Bullying and Harassment Online
Unlike in past decades, when bullying largely took place in schoolyards in front of a limited number of onlookers, today much of the bullying takes place on social media. Bullying is amplified by the virtually unlimited number of people that can see postings, the “piling on” effect that often results, and the perceived “permanence” of the postings.
Gossip, innuendo, lies, and derogatory postings now can spread faster than wildfire. Because of the limitations of many social media sites, there seemingly is not much that victims can do to fight back immediately before damage is done.
As a result, countless new victims of online bullying and harassment emerge each year. Tragically, online bullying has led to several instances of students taking their lives. Other students remain significantly affected by bullying.
At our firm, we firm believe that all school bullying and harassment should be stopped, and that administrators be held accountable when they fail to take appropriate action.
Massachusetts Now Requires That Public Schools Establish Anti-Bullying Guidelines
School Bullying has received increased attention in the past several years in Massachusetts due to several high-profile cases. Since 2010, all Massachusetts public school districts have been required to establish and maintain bullying prevention and intervention plans under a new state anti-bullying law, M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O.
Although the law does not provide a private right of action – i.e. a statutory right to bring a lawsuit for violation of the law – it establishes certain obligations and expectations for school districts and administrators. The state Department of Education and Secondary Education oversees compliance with the anti-bullying law.
What Should Parents Do if Their Child is Being Bullied or Harassed at School?
If your child is being bullied or harassed at school, the first step that should be taken is to make the principal at the school aware of the situation, and to seek an in-person meeting to discuss the situation. Often, this can be done by sending an email message to the principal (and possibly also to other school administrators).
In this email, a parent should explain the details about what has been occurring, and make a request for the in-person meeting as soon as possible. The email itself will serve as important evidence that the school was made aware of the exact bullying or harassment taking place, and the time and day that such notification was provided. A follow-up phone call to schedule the meeting would also be appropriate.
In any case of bullying or harassment, it is critical to notify administrators of the events taking place so that the administrators can do their job to investigate the bullying and harassment instances, and to take whatever action may be appropriate.
Our Representation of Students Subjected to Bullying and Harassment
We represent students and parents in all bullying related issues, including harassment. We also represent students and parents in lawsuits for violation of a student’s civil rights arising out of a school district’s failure to adequately respond to bullying and harassment of students. This is an emerging issue for students and parents that requires competent and trusted legal representation.
If your child has been subjected to repeated bullying or harassment, we invite you to call our firm to learn how we can help.
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