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From Education World, Bullying and School Liability: What Administrators Should Know

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

Can schools be held legally accountable for student bullying? If so, under what circumstances?

Click here to read full Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
Education World®
Copyright © 2013 Education World

These tough questions have emerged alongside increased awareness of the detrimental effects of bullying. While almost all states have passed new, or strengthened existing, anti-bullying laws, many districts, in the face of rising family legal action concerning bullying, remain unclear regarding legally compliant policies and best practices.

EducationWorld offers the following primer for school leaders concerned about civil liability for bullying and harassment. Schools are encouraged to consult their districts’ legal counsel for information and advice regarding applicable state and federal laws.

Bullying vs. harassment

First, it’s important to note the difference between bullying and legally defined harassment. While we can all agree that any form of bullying is undesirable in a school setting, harassment occurs only when students are bullied based on personal characteristics that trigger special federal protection—namely gender, race or disability. Bullying that constitutes harassment is specifically prohibited by federal law.

It is therefore harassment-related student bullying that when left unchecked by school officials, poses the greatest legal risk. In the Leadership Insider article “School Liability for Bullying & Harassment,” article authors Seamus Boyce and Andrew Manna explain that if schools face the following five circumstances, they are legally liable for peer harassment:

  1. The bullied student is a member of a “protected class” defined under federal civil rights laws—these classes include gender, race and disability. (While his/her sexual orientation would not technically place a student in a protected class, note that in some court cases, students who were bullied for “nonconformity to gender stereotypes” have successfully claimed sex-based harassment.)
  2. The peer harassment was based on the students’ membership in a protected class (e.g., a student was repeatedly mocked for having a developmental disability).
  3. The harassment was severe, pervasive and offensive (this standard takes into account both severity and frequency; if severe, even a one-time incident can qualify).
  4. The school (an official with authority to act) had knowledge of the harassment.
  5. The school was deliberately indifferent to the harassment.


Florida News: Pasco County principal in viral video tripped into student to stop a fight

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

By Ronnie Blair | Tribune Staff Ronnie Blair on Google+
Published: September 26, 2013   |   Updated: September 27, 2013 at 06:48 AM

ZEPHYRHILLS — A video of the Zephyrhills High School principal taking down a student to stop a fight became something of an Internet sensation last week, drawing the attention of viewers throughout the Tampa Bay area, including some at school district headquarters.

The district’s verdict: The video appears to back up Principal Andy Frelick’s version of things.

District officials reviewed the video, even looking at it in slow motion, and determined no further action is warranted, said Linda Cobbe, spokeswoman for the district.

The fight between two students happened the morning of Sept. 19, and Frelick came running up just as the more aggressive student was about to throw a punch. Frelick said he hadn’t intended to tackle the student, but he tripped as he rushed up and stumbled into the teenager, who was also off balance. They both went down.

Cobbe said the district determined it did appear Frelick tripped.

“And knowing him, we know he wouldn’t go diving at a student,” she said. “It’s troubling that people kept saying he tackled the kid when it’s clear he stumbled.”

Click here to see video and read more.

From the blog of Trial Attorneys at Eglet Wall Christiansen: HOW EFFECTIVE IS NEVADA’S NEW CYBER-BULLYING LAW?

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On behalf of Robert Eglet of Eglet Wall Christiansen posted inCriminal Defense on Monday, October 21, 2013.

Just about every young person in Las Vegas has accounts on websites like Facebook and Instagram. These can be great ways of maintaining a social network and communicating with others, but they can also put teens in some situations that older generations never were confronted with. This can make it very difficult to draw lines between what is lawful behavior online, and what is not.

State and federal laws have been passed that attempt to establish these boundaries and identify dangerous or unlawful information that is being shared by juveniles online. The goal is to keep young people safe, but some of the laws may be misguided or too difficult to enforce accurately. One such law that has come under fire lately in Nevada is SB 414. Many teens and parents may want to be aware of this complex law, as it could end up putting a young person’s future in jeopardy.

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Colleton SC Lawyer David Aylor on LowCountry Live discussing Bullying in Schools

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

Published on Jan 16, 2013
Walterboro Lawyer, David Aylor discusses bullying in schools…

200 E. Washington St.
Walterboro, SC 29488
Office 843-782-4221

Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, III : Solution to School Violence and Bullying

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

Preventive Solutions to School violence and bullying

“No Bullying Allowed”

It is the responsibility of the adults in the school to take bullying seriously and to intervene, or the bullying will continue. Although it is helpful, it is not enough to supply the individual victims with strategies as to how to better handle bully situations. In order to truly be effective, a school-wide program needs to be implemented.

There are many bully prevention programs available, most of which are based on the work of Dan Olweus of Norway whose program successfully reduced bully/victim problems by 50% or more. Olweus identified a core program, that is quite simple to produce in schools in the United States, and does not require a lot of time or materials, but rather commitment by the adults to change the current, painful reality of bullying. The message to the students is that bullying is not acceptable at the school.

The Core Program developed by Olweus is as follows:

1. Understanding and Involvement of Adults: This is accomplished by way of an anonymous survey among students. Findings should be presented to the school at an assembly. Parents should also be made aware of the findings.

The Delaware Department of Justice has developed a questionnaire for Delaware schools to download and use. As an alternative, Questionnaires can be obtained from various sources, and software can be obtained to process the data. For information

2. Better supervision during recess, lunch time and other break times: Most bullying occurs during break periods, so adequate adult supervision during those periods and a system for exchanging information about bullying that occurs during those periods is paramount.

3. Class rules against bullying and class meetings. Students should be taught what bullying is, what is not acceptable behavior, and the sanctions for such behavior. Follow-up discussions should be held in class.

4. Talks with targets, bullies and their parents. Serious talks should take place with targets and bullies. Agreements about cooperation between school and home can be reached.

The Delaware Attorney General’s Office has developed a worksheet for passive targets to help them think about strategies for dealing with the bully.

The Delaware Attorney General’s Office has developed a Bullying Package for use with bullies, after a minor bullying incident. If the school decides to use this package, photocopy the complete forms, send them home to be signed by a parent/guardian and then returned to the office. Inform the parent and the student as to the consequences if there is another incident of bullying.

5. In addition Olweus encourages teachers to develop creative solutions to help those involved deal with the situation.

This is the core curriculum. In 1993 Olweus concluded, “It is no longer possible to avoid taking action about bullying problems at school using lack of knowledge as an excuse…a great deal can be accomplished with relatively simple means”. Olweus, Dan Bullying At School. Blackwell Publishing. 1993.

Florida Passes Anti-Bullying Law

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro

Originally posted here.

LAKELAND, FL:  The State of 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 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.

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, sponsored the legislation.  Sen. Bullard was motivated by how technology can be used to spread hateful and damaging messages, as well as embarrassing photos and images.  Bullard has seen students’ reputations and self-esteem suffer when nude photos circulate, and he said there is a need to address the new dynamic of bullying. “You want something that is broad enough to deal with those technologies, and I think the bill does that,” he said.[1]

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