Surprising news for most parents, if your child is being bullied at school, your hands could be tied when it comes to litigation options. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? If a child is in the schools care, isn’t it their job to ensure that the child is safe and unharmed from bullies? Not according to the law.
While it might not make commons sense, as a parent you do not have the right to sue the school on behalf of your child because individual states do not the actual duty to protect individuals from mental or physical harm created by a private party. The state is in fact liable for the actions of a private party, but only if it creates or contributes to the danger or makes a citizen more vulnerable to that danger.
In plane English, if the principal is watching your kid get beat up and does nothing about it, but encourages the kids to fight, the school is in trouble. But if it’s just happening at school, even if the school is aware of it from your complaints, the school isn’t liable. So your kid could get pummeled in to a coma and you might not have a claim.
In a recent case, a young girl in Indiana was ridiculed daily by her peers while the staff of the school stood by the wayside. In this case, the child was not just teased and mocked. She was followed; she had her chair kicked out from under her in the middle of class. She was forced to participate in sports events with broken toes. All the while her teachers joined in the laughing.
So, if a teacher hears about the bullying, and goes so far as to laugh about it, unless she joins in the bullying she has done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law. If there is no proof that teachers, coaches and other professionals have done anything to further the bullying, and perhaps have even disciplined the bullies once in a while, that’s called “good enough.” If classmates torture a child for five years throughout elementary school, and all of the educational professionals are aware of the issues, but still do nothing to stop the bullying, same result. No harm/no foul.
Parents put themselves in a very hard situation at that point. If they approach the bullies themselves, they face the consequences of perhaps not being allowed on school property, or worse. What if it is a small town feel kind of county and as a parent you tried to protect your child by switching schools. The new school taking a bias to your child right off the bat because they are aware of the constant complaining about the bullying. What do you do?
Again, in the eyes of the law, nothing. Unless you can prove that your child was intentionally treated differently from other kids in a similar situation, unless you can prove the educational staff and professionals actually engaged in the bullying and teasing, unless you can prove that the school was aware of the mistreatment your hands are legally tied. I’m shaking my head too and don’t understand.
You would think with the big media push on anti-bullying these laws would change. That something would change. You would think in this day and age we wouldn’t still have to be worrying about a bully in our schools wreaking havoc on our children. It still exists. Bullying is an epidemic taking over our schools. Hopefully a solution will be found soon. The law as it stands is ridiculous. But one thing we’ll never do as attorneys is tell you that you have rights which don’t exist just because it’s what you want to hear.