School Bullying, Assaults & Negligence

According to recent statistics, 1 out of every 5 students is a victim of school-based bullying. Statistics further show that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior.

Bullying can take many forms, such as physical assaults, ridicule, false rumors, or threats. It also includes instances where a child is targeted by others on-line through social media—commonly referred to as cyberbullying. While any child can be subject to bullying, children with disabilities or those falsely perceived as being weak or “different” are often most vulnerable. It is a serious problem and must be immediately addressed.

In some cases where a student is assaulted or bullied at school or on-line, a parent (if the other child is under 18) or a school can be liable for the ongoing bullying of a student. For example, a parent may be liable if he or she ignored complaints about bullying or failed to intervene when they were aware of bullying behaviors. Schools may be liable for a child’s bullying or assault if they failed to implement bullying training or education, failed to enforce anti-bullying rules, failed to train teachers on how to handle bullying situations, or ignored repeated requests to intervene if a child was previously bullied or assaulted.

A case for school bullying is typically stronger where a school or parent had prior knowledge of the bullying and did nothing to prevent the harm or protect the victim. Typically, a single instance of bullying will not be enough to sustain a lawsuit against a school district or parent. Evidence of prolonged, repeated, and ongoing bullying will bolster the viability of a school bullying case.

Discussing your child’s experience and the response of the school district with us can help you determine if your circumstances warrant pursuing a lawsuit.

In Rhode Island, schools and school districts are now legally required to investigate accusations of bullying or assaults. In addition, school districts are required to adopt disciplinary consequences for school bullying that are available if an investigation uncovers bullying. Failing to properly investigate bullying or school-based assault claims is a violation of a student’s rights.

Contact us to understand your legal options if your child has been assaulted or subjected to bullying at school.

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