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Problems with Peers: What is Bullying? What Can I Do?

Bullying has been defined in case law as unwanted aggressive behavior among school-aged children that is real or perceived involving an imbalance of power to control or harm others.  Actions can include:

  • Threats whether verbal or written
  • Social bullying such as spreading rumors
  • Verbal or physical assaults
  • Exclusion from a group

Moreover, bullying can also include:

  • Being a witness to bullying

There is currently no federal statute that specifically defines bullying but California Education Code §(1) does have a Safe Place to Learn Act and further defines it as:

  • “Bullying” means any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils as defined in Section 48900.2 through 48900.4, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following:
    • Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property.
    • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health.
    • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance.
    • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

If your child is being bullied or has been a witness to bullying, quick intervention is key.  Bullying can result in a denial of FAPE (free appropriate public education) under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004) that must be remedied, (such as claims for compensatory education services).  In addition, Child Find as defined under the IDEA, may be triggered if your child is experiencing bullying.  Some IEPs (Individualized Education Program) can help address bullying.  Peer groups such as a buddy system can also help.

Statistics show that the majority of bullying at school occurs during unstructured time such as during recess, lunch and transitions between classes.

As a parent, the following may be helpful if your child is being bullied:

  • Have an open dialogue with your child
  • Teach your child how to report instances of bullying
  • Monitor your child’s use of the internet
  • Advise your child to use the buddy system (statistics have shown that children may be less subject to bullying if part of a buddy system).
  • Advise your child to stand up for him/herself
  • Advocate in your child’s IEP measures to help stop bullying

If you have any questions regarding the above or need assistance getting a school to respond, contact us for a consultation.

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