Schoolteachers, administrators and parents often ignore bullying. It is often seen as a rite of passage, harmless pranks, and kids being kids. Furthermore, bullying is not gender specific. Children are often reluctant to tell teachers or parents about bullying for many reasons.
Often the child does not seek assistance because they want to handle it on their own, they do not want repercussion of being a tattletale, and they feel like nobody cares and/or they feel that the adult figure will reject them as weak. However, schools and parents should take bullying seriously because it can have negative side effects. Countless studies have shown that bullying can lead to negative emotional and psychological problems that progress to adulthood. Furthermore, bullying can lead to self-destructive behavior such as depression, running away from home, self-harm and suicide.
Bullying is defined as aggressive, unwanted behavior among children involving either a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior must be aggressive and include an imbalance of power and repetition. An imbalance of power includes physical strength or popularity, which is used to control or harm others. Repetition means that the bullying behavior occurs more than once and has the potential of occurring again.
Bullying includes but is not limited to these situations:
- verbal bullying, such as name calling and threats;
- social bullying, such as attacking a child’s reputation with rumors; and,
- physical bullying includes physically injuring a child.
Bullying can occur anywhere but most reported incident of bullying occurs during school and before and after school. In the past, children could avoid bullying by going home and avoiding places and situations where bullies tend to congregate. However, technology has changed how and where bullying occurs. In the past, bullying was isolated to places like school, playground, the bus and travelling to and from school. Now bullies are using technology. Bullies will harass, intimidate and embarrass children using instant message, text messages, email, picture messages, videos and social media. The use of technology to bully is called cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is much different from direct bullying. Cyber bullying and bullying usually occur hand in hand. However, what makes cyber bullying different is that it can occur at anytime. Traditional bullying tends to happen at specific places, such as school, the bus or the mall. Cyber bullies cans use technology to harass attack and embarrass a child at all times of day. Furthermore, the cyber bullies is usually anonymous and the message, picture or video can be distributed quickly and can be difficult to delete once posted. Cyber bullying is different from traditional bullying because a child can feel that they have nowhere to retreat and feel safe.
In a national survey over 4,080,879 children admit to being victims of bullying and 3,892,199 children admit to bullying. While 56%, of children have experienced or witnesses some form of bullying in school and 90% of children between 4th and 8th grade report being a victim of bullying. In Arizona, a survey of almost 1 million children between the ages of 5 through 18 revealed that 90,000 children reported being the victims of bullies and 71,000 reported being bullies.
If you believe bullies are targeting your child, the best thing to do is to talk and support your child. The next thing to do is bring the situation to the attention of the school administration and show a commitment of ending the bullying. Arizona does have an anti-bullying law that directs schools to create policies to prevent bullying. Under, A.R.S. § 15-341.37 states the school district needs to:
Prescribe and enforce policies and procedures to prohibit pupils from harassing, intimidating and bullying other pupils on school grounds, on school property, on school buses, at school bus stops, at school sponsored events and activities and through the use of electronic technology or electronic communication on school computers, networks, forums and mailing lists that include the following components:
A procedure for pupils, parents and school district employees to confidentially report to school officials incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying. The school shall make available written forms designed to provide a full and detailed description of the incident and any other relevant information about the incident.
A requirement that school district employees report in writing suspected incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying to the appropriate school official and a description of appropriate disciplinary procedures for employees who fail to report suspected incidents that are known to the employee.
A requirement that, at the beginning of each school year, school officials provide all pupils with a written copy of the rights, protections and support services available to a pupil who is an alleged victim of an incident reported pursuant to this paragraph.
If an incident is reported pursuant to this paragraph, a requirement that school officials provide a pupil who is an alleged victim of the incident with a written copy of the rights, protections and support services available to that pupil.
A formal process for the documentation of reported incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying and for the confidentiality, maintenance and disposition of this documentation. School districts shall maintain documentation of all incidents reported pursuant to this paragraph for at least six years. The school shall not use that documentation to impose disciplinary action unless the appropriate school official has investigated and determined that the reported incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying occurred. If a school provides documentation of reported incidents to persons other than school officials or law enforcement, all individually identifiable information shall be redacted.
A formal process for the investigation by the appropriate school officials of suspected incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying, including procedures for notifying the alleged victim on completion and disposition of the investigation.
Disciplinary procedures for pupils who have admitted or been found to have committed incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
A procedure that sets forth consequences for submitting false reports of incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
Procedures designed to protect the health and safety of pupils who are physically harmed as the result of incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying, including, if appropriate, procedures to contact emergency medical services or law enforcement agencies, or both.
Definitions of harassment, intimidation and bullying
Furthermore, Arizona statute A.R.S. 15-341(A) (12) and (13) require that the school board hold children responsible for disorderly conduct to and from school and on school property.
These laws make it the responsibility of the school district’s administrators, employees, staff and teachers to make a safe environment for your child. The schools are required to protect their students from bullies and provide proper supervision during the school day. If your child is a victim of bullying and the school has not responded to your demands, you may need to talk to an attorney. A legal action may be initiated to force the school district to address and take action on bullying issues.
Contact the Law Office of Gonzales and Poirier at 928-774-5400 for a free consultation. Depending on the facts of your case, our attorneys can discuss your rights, legal remedies and how to best protect your child from bullying. We have convenient offices located in Flagstaff and Cottonwood, Arizona. We have experience dealing with school boards and districts throughout Northern Arizona.