When You’re Worried About School Bullying and Feel Helpless
You feel absolutely helpless. Your middle school child comes home every day looking sad. Meanwhile, mornings have become increasingly difficult. When you ask your son to share what is troubling him, he refuses. After several days, he releases a floodgate of tears and admits that his classmates are bullying him. He doesn’t want to go back to school. Ever again.
Somehow you maintain your composure. On the one hand, you want to cry with your son. On the other, your Mama Bear instincts are ready to lash out. Recognizing that neither of these actions will be productive, you realize you need to set up a plan.
For starters, you may reach out to the school officials. You might even try calling the parents of the perceived bullies. Unfortunately, you may feel entirely frustrated with both attempts. In fact, you might need to speak with an attorney to learn if anything can be legally done to protect your child against school bullying.
New Jersey Law and School Bullying
First and foremost, you should know that there are actually anti-bullying laws passed by the New Jersey Legislature. They start at NJSA 18A:37-13 and are designed to prevent both harassment, intimidation, and bullying in New Jersey schools. The emphasis is that students are in school to learn and therefore none of these actions should be tolerated.
Meanwhile, the law further requires school districts to adopt guidelines against harassment, intimidation, and bullying, which are known as HIB policies. According to NJSA 18A:37-15, the following must be done:
- Parents or guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators, and community representatives are all expected to act as a team to create HIB policies.
- Policies must include statements prohibiting harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
- Definitions of harassment, intimidation, and bullying must be contained in policies.
- Description of behavior expected from students should be detailed in policies.
- Consequences and remedial actions must be outlined for those found to be involved in harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
Under New Jersey law, the school districts are required to share the HIB policy and notify students and parents of its availability. In most cases, it is up to the principal to determine whether any reports warrant investigation and action.
Can You Hold the School Accountable for Bullying?
Admittedly, the law sounds like it should help your children. However, that doesn’t mean it always works. For whatever reason, school administrators may decide that your child isn’t really a victim and doesn’t need classroom changes or other accommodations.
In nearby Union County, a parent has been fighting to have her nine-year-old daughter moved to another classroom because of bullying concerns. According to news reports, the Superintendent of Schools sent home a letter to all parents about the incident. He claimed there was “misinformation in news articles and inconsistency in the child and her mother’s accounts.”
Sadly, some bullying cases result in tragic consequences. Parents of a twelve-year-old who committed suicide believe that bullying drove her to take her own life. According to a recent article, the young girl’s parents want the school held accountable for failing to follow anti-bullying guidelines.
Nothing is worse than a child’s pain. As a parent, no one knows how far victimization can push a youngster. School should be a place of learning and fun, not an invitation for fear or intimidation.
School districts do have legal obligations when it comes to upholding policies against harassment, intimidation, and bullying. It helps to have a compassionate and experienced lawyer at your side to assist when you feel the most helpless and frustrated.