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Can I Take Legal Action if My Child is Bullied?

Bullying has increasingly come into focus as an aspect of school life that needs to be diminished and ultimately eradicated due to its links with teen suicide and other forms of school violence. But beyond the obvious violence, bullying has also been found to pose significant psychological, academic, and physical risks that can destroy the childhood of many victims and carry long-term repercussions well into adulthood. What isn’t talked about as often in this dialogue, however, is the legal ramifications of bullying and whether you as the parent of a victim can seek out legal action. Few parents truly understand their rights, responsibilities, and risks when their child is involved in bullying, whether as the family of the victim or the bully.

Lawsuits by victims of bullying have been filed against school districts, school staff, or even the bullies and their parents, and these types of legal action are becoming much more common. But, overall, this type of action should be considered a last resort.

First and foremost, if your child has been the victim of bullying, they will need your support. Most children will attempt to disguise or hide the fact that they are being bullied and are unlikely to reach out to parents for help, often even resenting your involvement due to embarrassment or the chance that it may make things worse for them.

Your next step upon learning about the bullying is to reach out to the child’s teacher or principal with an in-person meeting to discuss the details of what is happening and what they will do to prevent it in the future. The law generally regards bullying as a problem which should be addressed by the school and all schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy.

Generally, schools and staff will respond positively to try and prevent bullying from happening or re-occurring to your child. The school is legally required to do all that it can reasonably do to prevent it and the school can become responsible if it has not done anything to prevent or stop the behavior. This is why it is crucial that you obtain a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy and you also keep detailed and accurate records about any additional bullying, the school’s response, statements made by your child, contact info for potential witnesses, and so forth.

Some schools are better than others about preventing bullying, and if your attempts to work with the school have not been satisfactory, and the school has failed to adhere to their legal responsibilities, then you may have a legal basis to bring a claim against the school district, its personnel, and/or the bully and their parents. The parents, like the school district, become legally responsible when they know the child is a threat to others but have not taken reasonable steps to control or diminish the behavior. In this way, a parent’s liability for bullying is much the same as the liability for a child’s drunk driving—the law would not look too kindly on a parent who allowed their child to drive drunk.

Bullying is a serious problem which affects far too many children today. While bullying has always been a fact of life for school children, it has, in many ways, only grown worse with the advent of technology and the ability to torment victims around the clock, even within the safety of the child’s home, thanks to social media.

If your child is suffering at the hands of a bully and an unresponsive school, then now is the time to speak to an attorney about what else can be done. The law firm of Greenberg & Stein is passionate about standing up for the little guy and has a reputation for taking on and winning even the most difficult of cases. We firmly believe that no child should suffer the long-term psychological and emotional consequences associated with bullying and we are standing by, ready to help.  Either way, it is most important to know that lawsuits against most public school districts have strict time limits within which to file a claim.  In New York this time limit is ninety (90) days.  So even if you aren’t sure that you want to pursue a claim, it’s wise to consult an attorney before the ninety (90) day limit expires as asking a Court to extend that ninety (90) days is rarely successful.

If you’re ready to turn a new page, then it’s time to meet with the team at Greenberg & Stein to discuss the details of your case and whether it warrants legal action. Call us today at 888-411-3966 to schedule your free legal consultation.