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ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT FOR EMPLOYERS: Will Florida’s Anti-Bullying Law criminalize workplace bullying?

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate


Currently, Florida has one of the best-written and most comprehensive anti-bullying laws in the nation.   In 2008, Florida’s legislature unanimously passed the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act” (Fl. Stat. section 1006.147), and it was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist on June 10, 2008.

Named after bully victim Jeffrey Johnston, the education law requires every Florida school to develop anti-bullying policies that include punishment and counseling for students who bully their peers.   In 2005, Jeffrey killed himself after enduring three years of bullying via the internet and phone by a classmate.  After his death, Jeffrey’s mother Debbie, herself a Florida elementary school teacher, became a strong advocate for state legislation to prohibit bullying and cyber-bullying under Florida law. She led an effort spanning three years to get anti-bullying legislation passed in Florida.

In a further effort to call attention to bullying being escalated by electronic devices, earlier this year Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill (HB 609), expanding the scope of the law to include “cyberbullying”.  Under the July 1st, revisions, school administrators now have the authority to reach beyond school grounds.  If cyberbullying “substantially” interferes with or disrupts the educational process, administrators may now regulate and punish it — even when it originates on a computer or device off campus.

To the best of my knowledge, Florida lawmakers failed to provide our schools with additional funding to support proactive bullying and cyberbullying prevention programs in our schools.

Because of the spreading epidemic of alleged bullying among students, our lawmakers are currently considering a law that will criminalize bullying.

Rebecca’s Law,  named after 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick who committed suicide after alleged victimization by bullying, will provide legal consequences for those who are found guilty of bullying.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen sponsored the bill that will provide criminal penalties for someone who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harasses or “cyberbullies” another person, which would be a first degree misdemeanor.  If a credible threat is determined to have taken place it would be considered aggravated bullying, a 3rd degree felony.

Our lawmakers have a narrow focus on making bullying behavior among our youth a crime, while failing to consider bullying is an ongoing problem among adults as well.

Florida citizens should consider what impact the criminalization of bullying will have in other settings.

Employers must consider the potential legal actions that may be taken where there are accusations and evidence of workplace bullying.

If you are an employer or please consider the information and resources provided by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI).

“The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) is the first and only U.S. organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying.  WBI combines help for individuals, research, books, public education, training for professionals-unions-employers, legislative advocacy, and consulting solutions for organizations to prevent and correct workplace bullying.”
Click here to visit the WBI website.



According to reports, 35% of the U.S. workforce report being bullied at work. 

March 2nd, 2012

LA Times: California physician assistant wins $168 million in harassment suit


By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2012

Ani Chopourian told of sexually inappropriate conduct, bullying and retaliation at a Sacramento hospital. The award is believed to be the largest for a single victim of workplace harassment in U.S. history.

Ani Chopourian lost track of how many complaints she filed during the two years she worked as a physician assistant at Sacramento’s Mercy General Hospital.

There were at least 18, she recalled, many having to do with the bullying surgeon who once stabbed her with a needle and broke the ribs of an anesthetized heart patient in a fit of rage. Another surgeon, she said, would greet her each morning with “I’m horny” and slap her bottom. Yet another called her “stupid chick” in the operating room and made disparaging remarks about her Armenian heritage, asking if she had joined Al Qaeda.

Managers from Mercy General, a unit of Catholic Healthcare West, told a Sacramento trial court that it was Chopourian who was guilty of professional misconduct, which was why they fired her and tried to deny her unemployment benefits.

But in a stunning rebuke of the hospital’s side of the story, a jury Wednesday awarded Chopourian $168 million in damages, believed to be the largest judgment for a single victim of workplace harassment in U.S. history.

“They were just shocked by the whole workplace environment,” said Lawrance Bohm, Chopourian’s attorney during the three-week trial in which witness after witness depicted a culture of vulgarity and arrogance they said humiliated female employees and put patients at risk.

Click here to read more at WBI.

“Fed-up dad files restraining order against 9-year-old school bully”

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Stephen Feudner, of Fairfield, Calif., filed a restraining order against a boy who has been bullying his son. He said he complained to the school, but they ignored him.

BY  NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Friday, March 21, 2014, 10:23 AM
Stephen Feudner, of Fairfield, Calif., filed a restraining order against a boy who has been bullying his son, who is in 4th grade at Rolling Hills Elementary.

A Northern California family has filed a restraining order against a 9-year-old boy who has been mercilessly bullying their son, according to a report.

Fairfield dad Stephen Feudner told local FOX40 he had no choice but to file the order against his son’s schoolmate at Rolling Hills Elementary because administrators ignored his complaints for five months.

“He’s attacked my son and other children,” Feudner said. “I am trying to protect them from future attacks by this young man.”

Feudener’s son, who was not identified, said the playground goon’s alleged attacks were both physical and verbal.

“He came up and pushed me, I pushed him back and he punched me in the face and he said ‘Haha, you got punched,’” the boy told the station.


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The Florida Senate
(This document is based on the provisions contained in the legislation as of the latest date listed below.)

Prepared By: The Professional Staff of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice

INTRODUCER: Criminal Justice Committee and Senator Simmons
SUBJECT: Bullying
DATE: March 4, 2014

1. Dugger Cannon CJ Fav/CS
2. Clodfelter Sadberry ACJ Pre-meeting
3. AP

Please see Section IX. for Additional Information:
COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE – Substantial Changes

I. Summary:
CS/SB 548 creates a criminal statute penalizing bullying and aggravated bullying. The newly
created statute provides a second degree misdemeanor penalty [1] for bullying and a first degree misdemeanor penalty [2] for aggravated bullying. Cyberbullying is included in each new crime.  The elements of these two new offenses and the definitions provided in the bill are the same as the elements and definitions in the stalking statute (found to be constitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 1995).

The Criminal Justice Impact Conference has determined that the bill will have an insignificant impact on the need for prison beds.

II. Present Situation:

Bullying Statute 

Florida law requires each district school board to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment in district schools.[3]

Violation of these policies can result in school disciplinary actions being taken. Among other things, the law prohibits the bullying or harassment of any
public K-12 student or employee:

1  Punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a potential fine up to $500. Sections 75.082 and 775.083, F.S.
2  Punishable by up to one year in jail and a potential fine up to $1,000.Sections 775.082 and 775.083, F.S.
3  Section 1006.147, F.S.

Read the rest of this entry

Punishing Bullies with Public Humiliation: How some parents are deciding to prevent future bullying behavior

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

Thrift shop clothes punishment for bullying tween gets mixed reviews
Posted on: 11:08 pm, May 21, 2013, by Brittany Green-Miner and Caroline Connolly, updated on: 11:15pm, May 21, 2013

MURRAY, Utah – A punishment given to a fourth grade bully by her parents has garnered international attention, and the unique parenting method has received mixed reviews.

For several weeks, 10-year-old Kaylee had been teasing a classmate at Viewmont Elementary about the way she dressed.
When Kaylee’s dad’s fiancée Ally learned about the bullying, she asked Kaylee about it, and Kaylee didn’t show any remorse.
So Ally and Mark, Kaylee’s dad, decided to give the girl a taste of her own medicine. They went to a local thrift shop and picked out a “new” wardrobe for Kaylee to wear to school.  Click here to read more.

Published on Oct 7, 2013
Most parental punishments might include the naughty step, no pudding, or no Saturday night TV. But one parent, furious when his nine-year-old son was reported as bullying other kids at his elementary school, made him learn a lesson in a very humiliating way.

Watch Full Segment Here:

Published on Nov 30, 2012
An Arizona school district has condemned the in-school discipline at one of its high schools after two boys were forced to hold hands in front of their classmates as a punishment for fighting.
Earlier this week, the two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., who have not been named, were faced with the prospect of either suspension from school, or sitting in chairs in the high school’s courtyard and holding hands for 15 minutes during a lunch period. They opted for the latter.

Ocala Florida School Bus Bullies Attack of 13-year-old

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate


Video released of 13-year-old girl brutally beaten on school bus

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida State Attorney’s Office released video on Thursday of a brutal fistfight on an Ocala school bus that happened on Jan. 6.

The video shows seven students, five girls and two boys, attacking a 13-year-old girl at the back of the bus, while it’s moving.
During the chaos, the bus driver turns around, points and screams something to the crowd of children, but continues to drive. He was also seen using the two-way radio.
The video shows two girls at the front of the bus screaming at the driver “Pull over!”

Click here to read full story.

The video even comes with this warning:

Warning – Item [RAW VIDEO] School Bus Fight – Ocala, FL might contain content that is not suitable for all ages.

School Bus Beating Surveillance Video Released

RAW VIDEO: Ocala School Bus Fight
Published on Jan 26, 2012
A surveillance camera on a school bus captures a fight

Published on Jan 26, 2012
Prosecutors have released surveillance video of a school bus fight that left a 13-year-old girl injured.

Bullied at the Bus Stop

Posted on

Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

Second-grader beaten at bus stop by classmates

Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 5:50 pm | Updated: 5:50 pm, Wed Feb 19, 2014.

By Dan Adkins Georgetown News-Graphic

A second-grader was beaten so severely by classmates Wednesday, he was transported to an area hospital for care.

A group of second-graders reportedly ganged up on the boy on their school bus, then followed the boy off the bus and kept beating him, a Scott County sheriff’s deputy said.

Deputy Joshua Bedson said the boy, also a second-grader, was assaulted as the bus approached and entered Spindletop Mobile Home Park off Lisle Road about 2:45 p.m.

The boy, who has not been identified, was taken to Georgetown Community Hospital by Georgetown-Scott County Emergency Medical Services. No report on the boy’s condition was availble at press time.

The driver of the bus, identified as Bus No. 36, allowed the boys to get off the bus with the victim at the intersection of Mulholland Drive and Dale Drive, then allowed them back on, several parents at the scene said.

“They were getting off the bus, beating on him,” said parent Janie Schmidt.

Click here to read the full story.

Here are some other cases of students being Bullied at the Bus Stop

Published on Feb 1, 2012
A woman says her son, a second-grader, was badly beaten up by a sixth-grade boy for nearly five minutes on a school bus. She wants to know why the bus driver didn’t do something to help and why the other boy is not suspended.

Published on Nov 18, 2013
CARROLL COUNTY, Ky. (Angenette Levy) — A trio of 13-year-old girls are charged with assault and complicity for planning an attack on another student on a Carroll County school bus. Emily Penn Foster, 13, was riding home on the bus last Friday when she said one of the girls asked her a question. She asked me if I still liked a guy and I told her yes, Penn Foster said. Moments later, Emily said one girl punched her in the face. Cell phone video of the attack shows a second girl grabbing her hair and punching her in the back for more than 20 seconds.

Bullying Prevention According to the Law: What will be the role of adults who work with school children?

Posted on

Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

The controversial Pinellas School Bus Beating and the more recent Gibbs High School violent classroom fight among students highlights the issue of what role educators, school employees/volunteers and even bus drivers must take when they are witness to peer victimization and bullying. 

As Florida lawmakers consider Rebecca’s Law, which would criminalize bullying, individuals who work in schools must recognize the liability that might be placed on them. 

In 2012, a NJ school district settled a bullying lawsuit for $4.2 million. The suit against the school district alleged officials knew or should have known of his bully’s violent tendencies. The plaintiff also accused them of failing to comply with state anti-bullying laws. The plaintiff settled out of court for an undisclosed amount with the bully’s family.

While each state sets different statutes of limitations for different types of claims, many states impose a three-year statute of limitations for injury claims in general — but for children, the statute of limitations is extended until the child’s 18th birthday. So children really have until age 21 to pursue an injury claim.   Liability for bullying may have special considerations as a child who is bullied may have long-lasting repercussions that can follow into adulthood.

It will be extremely important to create a massive amount of public awareness of Rebecca’s Law and the intent of the law to prevent children from behaving like bullies, or face criminal charges and expensive lawsuits. 

Surprisingly, most Florida residents are not even aware of the fact Florida currently has an anti-bullying law and our schools have already taken initiative to put in place proactive bullying prevention programs. Under the law, they loose valuable funding if they are not in compliance. 

Under the new anti-bullying law, parents, guardians, teachers, educators, administrators, school volunteers and even school bus drivers must have a clear-cut definition and understanding of what their responsibilities will be to prevent children from behaving like bullies. 

According to Lawyers dot com, when bullying behavior is considered a crime, “teachers can be held criminally liable for turning a blind eye to bullying.”

Bullying litigation is an emerging area of law as “Parents of victims can hold bullies – as well as schools, teachers and staff – civilly liable for bullying as well. Civil law involves tort claims. Tort law holds individuals or institutions legally responsible for harmful wrongdoing. The wrongdoing can result in monetary damages paid to the victim, even if the bully or the school isn’t criminally charged. Parents can also bring lawsuits against schools if they violate their state’s anti-bullying statutes.”

The public must be educated on what causes bullying behavior among children and what their legal responsibilities will be to prevent it.


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