Remembering a Child Lost: Bullying in California

Many of us can recall being bullied at some point in our youth. The bullying might have been an isolate incident or a pattern that followed you through your school days and made school a lonely and sometimes frightening place. In 2014, bullying follows children and teens home and can become a 24/7 terror as technology allows the bullies to reach into what used to be a safe zone. In 2014, bullying can also be deadly, driving tormented young people to feel the only way out is by taking their own life. When bullying is extreme, a bullying lawsuit against the bullies, school, or others who turned a blind eye to the situation may be appropriate. Our California bullying lawyer can help victim’s families bring a civil claim seeking justice and sending a clear message that extreme bullying is not tolerable and cannot be brushed off as “kids being kids.”

Civil Litigation & Prevention Efforts Follow Death of Bullied California Teen
In September 2012, Audrie Potts took her own life. The fifteen year old hung herself in her mother’s home, a week after she got drunk at a party, was sexually assaulted, and pictures of her naked body covered in crude messages were taken and passed around her school. Her death has led to a legal dispute discussed in this week’s San Jose Mercury News, with the Pott family placing blame on three boys who attended Saratoga High School with Audrie. They filed a wrongful death suit against the boys and added a fourth defendant, a female classmate accused of being present during the alleged assault and encourage the boys to take the intimate photos, in September. In response to the claims, the boys’ representatives have made suggestions that Audrie’s home life was at least partially responsible for the tragic early end to her life. A professor at Golden Gate Law School, Peter Keane, calls the allegations, including claims that the man who raised Audrie was not her biological father, an “irrelevant smoke screen [and] attempt to get away from the main issue of whether or not the people being sued are responsible in any way for the loss of this child.” Lawyers for the defendants disagree, pointing to issues in Audrie’s family and a dispute with former friends as the primary factors leading to her suicide.

Since its namesake’s suicide, the Audrie Potts Foundation has worked to bring attention to bullying and teen suicide. The group is advocating for legislation to increase penalties against teen bullies, including those involved in cyberbullying. Additionally, the group has pushed for conversations between teens and parents about social media, bullying, and the potential tragic consequences that can follow.

Bullying & Civil Law
The only acceptable level of bullying is none. Cooperation between parent, educators, and young people is key to preventing bullying as well as identifying and stopping it when it does occur. While it is not appropriate in every instance, when bullying becomes severe it may be time for the law to step in and help. As discussed on Lawyers.com, the vast majority of states have passed laws making bullying a criminal offense. Bullying can also give rise to civil liability, meaning bullied youths and their families may have a damages claim. In some cases, claims against schools may be appropriate if the school turned a blind eye and failed to intervene despite severe, continuing bullying.

If you live in Northern California and your child has been severely bullied, particularly if the bullying continued despite attempts to get the school to intervene, call and arrange a consultation with our education lawyer. Attorney Greg Brod is an education lawyer for San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and all other Northern California communities. Attorney Brod understands bullying law and can help you determine if a civil claim is appropriate. While we hope bullying never comes to such a tragic conclusion, our firm can also represent families in wrongful death claims when bullying leads to a child taking his or her own life.

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