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.