By William Bill Hurst

A Whiteland Indiana mother is fed up. She cannot bare to see her 15 year old daughter bullied anymore. So last fall, she took police reports to the community high school to show administrators that her daughter had been stalked and threatened by classmates. Despite her many efforts including starting a website and having hundreds of people sign petitions, it seems that the efforts of the school principals has essentially been ineffective. However, as a result of her efforts Legislators are now talking about attempting to strengthen Indiana’s Anti-Bullying Laws. Unfortunately in Indiana, the Indiana Bullying Laws say schools must make their own policies to handle bullying. The law defines bullying as “overt repeated actions meant to harm others;”however, cyber bullying is not included in the definition. The Whiteland mother’s petition calls for cyber bullying to be added and for the law to require harsh punishment for children who bully others. The problem in Indiana is that this law does not outline any specific punishment; and frankly has not been well enforced. This article appeared in the Indianapolis Star, Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

The situation of kids being bullied has gotten so severe, that Harvey Weinstein from the Weinstein Movie Company found it interesting enough to back Lee Hirsch’s documentary, BULLY, about intimidated teens. Watch below.

The Problem

In the past, adults and school officials have simply passed bullying off as “just kids being kids.” Then and now bullying seems to be the least well reported incident in recent times. According to the American Justice Department, nearly 1 in 4 children are bullied every month and more than 4,400 children commit suicide each year due to bullying. Bullying general leads to emotional stress, and in some cases, long term health issues. In the past, this type of interaction between students has been viewed as a right of passage, but perhaps no longer. In schools, bullying has been defined as the physical and emotional torment to children by violence, name calling, teasing, mockery, sexual harassment, threatening, stealing and demanding money or other items from children. This can cause or lead to serious personal injury and emotional scars that often never go away, involve injury self confidence and self worth dimensioned forever. In some incidences bullying can result simply in serious injury. Generally in case involving personal injury, parents will contact lawyers and as a result, these issues are brought to the attention of the school system often by the way of lawsuits. An example of such occurred in New Jersey in May of 2006. As reported by the daily news A 7th grade student who had previously reported incidences of being bullied one time. A student punched this child in his stomach and cause serious injuries which led to paralysis. This punch resulted in a $4.2 million dollar settlement. The New Jersey officials and legislators took notice of this and, as a result, the New Jersey legislature has revised (as many states have) their bullying laws in this instance providing for the training of public school staff in addressing bullying, intimidation and harassment as well as suicide prevention.

The Reasons

Certainly, revenge for bullying is one of the strongest motivations for school shootings according to the recent statistics. It reported 61% of all students said they believe students shoot others at schools because they have been victims of physical violence at home or at school. A total of approximately 15% of all students who do not show up to school reported it to being out of fear of being bullied. In terms of physical attacks, there are statistics that show us that 282 thousand students are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month. “Bully-cide” is a term used to describe suicide as a result of bullying. The statistics show that there is a strong connection between being bullied and suicide according to the most recent study at the Yale School of Medicine. So parents, be sure you talk to your children / teens about bullying and how to prevent it from happening to them and their peers. Make sure they know the importance of reporting such incidents and ways to handle a bully.  There are some current bullying statistics. The most recent bullying statistics indicate that this is a crime that is not going away. There are about 160,000 children that miss school every day out of the fear of being bullied. Informally, these studies concluded that there is an increase in cyber bullying. This is a serious problem among children / teens and social networking has provided an entirely new environment for bullying to take place. According to statistics in 2010, there are about 2.7 million students being bullied each year by about 2.1 million students taking on the role of the bully. Unfortunately, sometimes a teen or a child has been bullied may take on the role as a bully as a way to retaliate.

          There are a lot of reasons why people bully. Simply, our culture that is fascinated with winning power and violence, some experts suggest, influences the youthful mind to seek power through violence in their own lives. For example, the World Wrestling Federation glorifies bullies in the name of entertainment and may influence the emotionally young. In addition, it is thought that there is some social recognition for negative behaviors which can contribute to reasons why people bully. Situation comedies and reality television as well as real life situations in schools, show that “acting out” is more likely to get noticed than behaving civilly and courteously. Jealousy or envy and a lack or personal or social skills to deal with such feelings can also be a reason why a person may bully. Families that are not warm and loving are more likely to have children who bully, either within the family home or in other locations in which children need each other. So, there are many reasons kids bully, but one thing is clear regardless of why people bully, any type of bullying needs to come to an end, as of October of 2010. As a result of this recent New Jersey case, the New Jersey legislature has revised “as many states have, their bullying laws in this instance providing for the training of public school staff in addressing bullying, intimidation and harassment as well as suicide prevention.

A Solution: What can you do as a parent?

Do not try to fight violence WITH violence.  Taking matters into your own hands could lead to more severe problems for you and your child.  Click here to read about a Bullied Indianapolis, Indiana Student who faces expulsion due to firing a stun gun his mom gave him.

  • If your child is sexually harassed or bullied, it is best to take action right away.
  • Certainly if there is a physical assault of any kind contact the police. This includes shoving, hitting, slapping, tripping, punching and so forth.
  • Talk to the teachers and the school principal immediately and as soon as you find out the facts. It is important to document the times places or witnesses carefully so you can give detailed information to the school; if there are injuries take photographs.
  • If you do not get results within a couple of days, write the school district and demand an immediate response to the problem.
  • If there is violence, the police should be called and the school should be notified immediately.
  • Once you have resolved the particular bullying situation you are concerned about, consider lobbying for and supporting laws to punish school bullies in your state.  There may be anti bullying laws in your state like we have in Indiana, but similar to Indiana, it may not be enforced to the extent it should be
  • Talk to an attorney. There are many attorneys who sue public school districts and at least in part concentrate their personal injury lawsuits in this area.  While these types of lawsuits were rare a decade ago, today because of the reporting, particularly of the suicides involved with bullying, this is now something that parents no longer are reluctant to see a lawyer to bring some when the schools fail to remedy the problem.

Many public schools have adopted a “Zero Tolerance Policy” against bullying of any kind. Certainly if there is a physical assault of any kind contact the police. This includes shoving, hitting, slapping, tripping, punching and so forth. The police can check and see if the bully has any kind of a juvenile record.  In some cases, where sexual harassment involved, it is so severe that it deprives the victims of access to educational opportunities. Schools have a duty to provide safe premises and maintain reasonable supervision and discipline in the interest of the students (similar to that of a reasonable parent).

Title IX (9) of The Federal Education Amendment of 1972 makes it “illegal for any public school to receive federal funding for discrimination on the basis of sex.” So recent federal cases given to parents of children sexually harassed in schools a right to sue school districts where the school district knew of the harassment and ignored it.

Contacting a lawyer early to give you guidance on what your should do if your child is harassed or bullied is highly recommended. A lawyer can write the appropriate letters to the school to make sure that they know that you are serious about wanting the school to stop the bullying and in addition to put them on notice of any potential claim you may make for the past bullying or perhaps bullying in the future. In any event, the lawyer can help you ensure if your school district has an Anti-bullying policy that is enforcing and following up with the specific programs required for enforcement. It is important to speak out. Your efforts can help spare other children from bullying.