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Bullying In Public Schools

on Fri, 07/28/2017 - 14:33

If a student is bullied in school, parents can feel powerless to help. Georgia law has a broad definition of bullying, but nothing in Georgia law requires school districts take particular steps at the request of a parent or guardian. This can be very frustrating if school officials are not doing enough to protect a student.  

Federal law does require school districts to act in certain circumstances when the bullying is interferes with a student's ability to learn. However, these protects only apply if the bullying based on a protected classification, such as race, religion, sex, national origin, or disability. Although that sounds like a high standard, in practice I can often demonstrate it.  

For example, if the student-victim of bullying and the perpetrator are from different backgrounds, that is frequently the reason that student was selected as the target, which would show the bullying was based on a category such as race. Likewise, if a male student is targeted as nerdy or being LGBTQ+, that likely is based on a stereotype of how males show behave, which is a form of sex discrimination. Regardless if the bullying is based on a protected classification, a disabled student's issues with bullying should be addressed by the IEP or 504 team.  

It is very important to remember that a school district is only liable for failing to address bullying. In other words, if a district can plausibly state that it did not know about the bullying, then legal proceedings against the district would be very difficult. In practice, that means parents and students have to make sure that the principal or equivalent at the school knows about the bullying, including every instance when it occurs. A notebook with the time, date, and description of every incident, including when senior school staff were informed, is a powerful piece of evidence.  

If your student is being bullied in the public schools, contact me to schedule an initial consultation.