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Bullying in Schools

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October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Many students can become the perpetrator or target of teasing or hurtful behavior at some point during their school years. The conduct becomes a concern when hurtful or aggressive behavior toward an individual or a group appears to be unprovoked, intentional, and repetitive. Bullying is defined as hostile acts that are carried out repeatedly over time, and the acts involve an actual or perceived imbalance of power.

Federal Law
Did you know that there is no federal law that specifically addresses bullying or directly protects our minors from bullying in schools? However, other federal laws can protect our students from discriminatory harassment in some cases. Such federal laws include Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

State Law
California is one of ten states that have passed a law that defines bullying or given steps into taking action against the parties involved. Specifically, the Safe Place to Learn Act (which is set forth in California Education Code Sections 234-234.3, 234.5, 32261, 32265, 32270, 32282, 32283 and 48900), gives rights to students and provides school officials with a guide of the disciplinary actions to be taken. California’s Anti-Bullying laws and policies address “discrimination, harassment, violence, intimidation and bullying,” particularly when the teasing involves a disability, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a person or group with one or more of these characteristics. Bullying may be physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing), verbal (taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, threatening), or psychological (spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, or promoting social exclusion, extortion or intimidation).

What You Can Do
If your child, friend or relative is experiencing some type of bullying that creates a hostile school environment, report (preferably in writing) any and all incidents of such bullying behavior. The school districts should have a clear process in place for students and their parents to report any incidents of bullying. If the bullying behavior interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from school, the school may be required to investigate, documents its findings and respond appropriately to stop the bullying behavior. If you need assistance getting the school to investigate and respond to your concerns, contact us for a consultation.

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