It seems sometimes like bullying has reached epidemic proportions. As an Oakland bullying victim’s law firm, the Brod Law Firm applauds the efforts to bring attention to this problem. Our Northern California school injury lawyer also favors efforts by local school authorities to crack down on the problem and ensure the safety of our young residents.
The Oakland Times reported last week on efforts by Berkley schools to enact anti-bullying policies. The move comes in response to seven gun-related incidents at Berkley High School last year, one of which involved shots being fired in a school lavatory. In the new policy, bullying is defined as “systematic and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress” aimed at either students or teachers. Whether online, telephonically, or in person, the policy requires reporting of bullying incidents as well as investigation by school principals but leaves punishment details up to the school’s discretion based on the age of the offender and the severity of the incident. District officials acknowledged that schools owe an obligation to ensure bullying is taken seriously, noting the investigation should include separate interviews for witnesses, victims, and alleged perpetrators. Individual schools will be required to submit an annual report detailing bullying incidents and the school response.
Some statistics suggest that one in seven students were either bullied or involved in bullying during 2010. Other studies put the number even higher and, in the same year, well over half of students reported being witness to at least one bullying event. Bullying fears are a frequent cause of missed school days with BullyingStatistics.org suggesting fifteen percent of absences in 2010 were related to fear of victimization. Bullying can lead to both mental and physical anguish and is a factor in many cases of youth suicide. Parents should be alert to signs that their child is suffering at the hands of a school bully, especially in the middle school years when bullying appears to peak. A victim may show low self-esteem, may isolate themselves from others, and may display increased anger and frustration. Bullying may result in physical harm or may be primarily mental/emotional in nature.
In some cases, legal action may be appropriate where bullying is ongoing and severe. Bullying lawsuits may be aimed at bullies themselves but increasingly also include school officials who failed in their duty to provide a safe learning environment. Depending on the nature of the bullying, claims may also fall under discrimination or hate crime legislation.
If your child is the victim of bullying, it is important to address the issue immediately with the child and with school authorities. If you feel that the school is failing in its obligations, particularly after the bullying has been reported, consider taking legal action to protect your child and to remind school officials of their duties. As an Oakland victim’s rights law firm, we are available to discuss your potential legal remedies. Please call for a free consultation.