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Bullying in School – Legal Protection for Students

bullyingLate last week, a teenager was beaten at Parkview High in Gwinnett County. His injuries were so severe that he has to have reconstructive surgery. The incident was videoed by other students on their cell phones. Instead of helping, the kids stood by filmed. Equally astonishing was that there was no teacher or coach present. No adult supervision. What resulted is akin to the very worst parts of Lord of the Flies. The video is alarming and sad.

In another recent story, an eighth girl quit attending school and decided to home school because the bullying was too much to bear each day. It would begin on the bus, continue during class and then, throughout the evening via texting and Facebook. The student reported the bullying repeatedly to the school but nothing was done. Eventually, she was physically assaulted at school. After that, she and her mother made the decision to home school. Unfortunately, these stories are not rare.

What can parents do if their child is being bullied? First, know the law. Georgia has an anti-bullying law: O.C.G.A. 20-2-751.4. It defines bullying as an act that occurs on school property, on school vehicles, at bus stops or at school-related functions or activities. It also includes acts by use of data or software that are accessed through any electronic technology belonging to the school. The act of bullying is any intentional attempt or threat to physically injure someone else when this intention is accompanied by the ability to do so; or an intentional display of force that makes the victim afraid of or expect immediate physical harm; or any intentional written, verbal or physical act which a reasonable person would perceive as threatening, harassing or intimidating. This includes actions that have the effect of interfering with a student’s education or actions that are so persistent that they create an intimidating educational environment.

Second, know school policies. As of August 1, 2011, each local board of education was required to adopt a policy that prohibits bullying of a student by another student. This policy must be included in the student code of conduct for schools in that school system. If you have not received a copy, go to your school’s website and look for it. If you cannot find it, ask the school for a copy.

Third, TELL. If a child alerts you that he or she is being teased, email the teacher immediately. Keep a copy of this email and all other communications with the school. Email the school counselor and ask for a meeting as soon as practical. Copy the teacher and the principle on this email. Ask that your child be included in this meeting. At the meeting, request that a plan be put in place to ensure your child’s safety- emotionally and physically, at school. Ask that the counselor meet with the students doing the bullying and then, if appropriate, meet with your child and the bully in an attempt to mediate.

Fourth, Insist. Remember that children need advocates and a voice. Insist that all steps are being made to protect a child’s safety and well-being while at school as well as in cyber space. If the above steps do not correct the problem, go higher up the chain of command. Take your concerns to the County School Board and the School District Superintendent. These contacts can be found online. You can also go to the Georgia Department of Education at http://www.gadoe.org/Pages/Contact-Us.aspx.

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