Bullying has always been an issue, at all levels of schooling and even in the workplace. Bullies attack their victims over a variety of issues. From race to sexual orientation to the child’s size or height, any number of issues can trigger bullying behavior.
A child who is bullied excessively can develop long-term psychological issues if the behavior is left unchecked. If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school and are wondering about bullying laws in schools, read on for more information.
Warning Signs That Your Child is Being Bullied
Bullying can take many forms and can occur inside and outside of school. Often, the child experiencing the bullying is too scared to report it, as they fear the bully will find out that they tattled and redouble their efforts. As this is a sensitive subject, look for the following warning signs before beginning a conversation with your child:
- Your child often comes home with mysterious bumps, bruises, or cuts on various parts of their body.
- They isolate themselves at home and school and do not have many friends.
- Your child does not enjoy school as much as they once did, and often protests or tries to find reasons not to go to school.
- Their grades start to decline inexplicably.
- Your child often appears to be sad, depressed, or unusually moody in a way they never were before.
- They suffer from low self-esteem about certain aspects of their appearance or personality.
- You observe a substantial change in your child’s appetite or desire to eat.
- If your child walks or bikes to school, you notice that they choose an alternate route, even if it is out of the way of their normal course.
- Your child has trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep throughout the night due to recurring nightmares.
Are There Florida Bullying Laws in Schools to Protect My Child?
Yes, the Florida legislature has developed several bullying laws in schools to protect children from being bullied, either at school or outside of school. These bullying laws in schools even extend to the relatively newer issue of cyberbullying.
The “Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act” has provisions to protect K-12 students who are at risk of bullying or harassment through a series of preventative policies and disciplinary actions.
These policies must contain, at a minimum, the following components:
- A statement prohibiting bullying and harassment
- A thorough definition of both bullying and harassment
- A description of the type of behavior expected from each student and employee in the school
- The consequences for any student or employee of the school that commits an act of bullying or harassment
- The consequences for any student or employee of the school that wrongfully accuses another of bullying or harassment
- A safe procedure that allows any student or employee to report incidents of bullying or harassment anonymously.
- Formal disciplinary action cannot be based solely on an anonymous report. Once the report is received via the procedure in place, the school must investigate implementing disciplinary action.
- A procedure detailing this prompt investigation of the bullying or harassment report filed
- A process to determine whether the report of bullying or harassment is within the scope of the district school system. If the report is deemed outside the scope of the district, a process must be put in place to refer the report to the appropriate jurisdiction.
- A procedure to provide immediate notification to the parents of both the victim of bullying or harassment and the parents of the perpetrator when an incident is reported, as well as notification to local authorities if the incident was of the scale to pursue criminal charges.
- A procedure to refer victims and perpetrators of bullying to counseling
- A procedure to regularly update the victim’s parents of the steps being taken to protect their child
- A procedure to include incidents of bullying and harassment in the school’s safety and discipline reporting data
- A list of programs approved by the school district that provides instruction on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying and harassment to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers. This should include warning signs for potential perpetrators that could lead to bullying in the future.
- The statute requires all of the above information to be included in the employee handbook for all employees of the school, as well as in the student code of conduct, to promote general awareness.
Are There Federal Laws That Govern This Issue?
In some cases, bullying may overlap with discriminatory harassment, which is covered under federal laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice. If reported behavior meets all the criteria listed below, schools are required by law to address the issue.
- Offensive and unwelcome behavior, including derogatory language, intimidation, threats, physical contact, or physical violence
- The behavior is sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment for a student at school, and interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school
- The behavior targets a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion
- Sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity
What Should I Do if I Suspect My Child is Being Bullied?
If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school, there are several actions you can take to stop the behavior or prevent bullying from re-occurring. These include:
- Become an active listener to help encourage your child to open up about what they are experiencing at school. Have daily conversations with your child and ask open-ended questions.
- Make a formal complaint to the school, contacting your child’s teacher, principal, or school administrators directly. Ideally, file your complaint in writing, including the date, nature of the incident, and any details your child provides. Many counties or schools may have links on their website to report bullying incidents.
- If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, set limits on their online activity. You may want to place parental guidelines on the devices they use to prevent the use of the sites where they have unmonitored communications.
- Keep a detailed record of all incidents your child reports to you, including statements made by your child and any witnesses to the behavior. Be sure to include an account of how your child felt emotionally after experiencing the bullying or harassment.
- Discuss your child’s experience with the school’s guidance counselor and set up a meeting between them and your child.
- Consult the school’s code of conduct to make sure they are doing everything required by law to prevent bullying and harassment.
- If the school or school district has not provided a reasonable solution to the behavior your child is experiencing, consult an attorney to get legal advice about bullying laws in schools and consider your next steps.
How Carey Leisure & Neal Can Help
If your child’s school knew or should have known about a bullying incident but failed to prevent it, resulting in serious harm to your child, you may be able to hold them liable for their inaction.
Due to sovereign immunity laws, it can be challenging to hold government entities such as public schools accountable for negligence. It is important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who will be aware of the exceptions offered to these bullying laws in schools.
If your child has experienced bullying or harassment at school, contact the law offices of Carey Leisure & Neal to discuss your unique situation. With over 100+ years of combined experience, our team will be able to guide you through this difficult situation. Contact us today for a free consult.