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The Education Epidemic Called Bullying

  • By:sierraedlaw

It seems like not a week goes by, without online news sources such as Yahoo! reporting on a teenager who committed suicide. The tragedy itself is cause for immense concern among parents. However, the primary reason for adolescent suicide can be prevented by swift and enduring legal action.

Bullying has emerged as an epidemic inside of American schools. The classic act of intimidation portrayed in Hollywood blockbusters such as Stand By Me is no longer just the threat of physical violence for school-age children to intimidate their peers. Bullying comprises several methods for intimidating other school age children, including physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Many parents, teachers, and school administrators fail to recognize the signs of bullying. The reasons for the neglect run from lack of focus to poor training. Because bullying can escalate to acts of extreme violence (think Columbine), parents and educators must learn not only how to recognize bullying, but also know how to implement measures that eliminate the unhealthy act of intimidation.

Bullying Defined

The United States legal system defines bullying as an act that involves “verbal, physical, and/or psychological attacks by a student on another child with the explicit intent to harass, intimidate or cause harm” to the child. Bullying can encompass constant verbal threats, physical assault, and/or different types of disruptive activities that cause mental anguish. Many jurisdictions with the United States have passed stringent anti-bullying laws to stem what many legal experts have called a national epidemic.

Here are some examples of the type of behavior anti-bullying laws attempt to criminalize:

  • Taunting someone about his or her sexual status or gender orientation
  • Flashing gang signs
  • Wearing gang-related clothing
  • Making offensive remarks  about someone’s ethnic, gender, religious, or socioeconomic status
  • Physical acts of violence that include punching, tripping, and slapping
  • Spreading rumors and posting lies online about another student

The last example often refers to cyber bullying, which has become the leading method for intimidating students. Cyber bullying includes making online threats and spreading false information about the lifestyle of another student. Federal laws do not directly address the growing threat of cyber bullying.  However, schools and school districts that do not take swift action to eliminate cyber bullying can face charges of violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. A rapidly growing number of schools and school districts have hired at least one information technology specialist to monitor online activity on school grounds. However, the increase in monitoring at school has no effect on cyber bullying off campus.

Signs of Child Bullying

Parents have to take the lead in detecting the signs of student bullying. Here are some prominent signs that should never go unnoticed

  • Radical appetite changes
  • Child takes different route to school
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Wild mood swings
  • Truancy
  • Isolation
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Complaints about illnesses that do not exist
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constant nightmares
  • Sadness
  • Low self-esteem

Parents can detect many of these signs by simply becoming involved with a child’s schooling. The explosion in the number of households where both parents work has created a huge void in the monitoring of student education progress. Parents should discuss a child’s school day every day, not just one time a week or twice per month. Bullying signs such as unexplained injuries and wild mood swings should be obvious to any parent. However, low self-esteem and difficulty sleeping require more parental scrutiny.

Parents that notice one or more of the signs of bullying should consult with a licensed attorney who specializes in education law. Contact an education law attorney today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Posted in: District Lawsuits, Expulsions, Student Advocacy