There was a time when school violence was virtually unheard of, but in recent years we have all heard the horror stories about the results of bullying. The statistics are alarming. According to the National Center for Education Statistics*, during the 2013-14 school year 65% of public schools had recorded one or more violent incidents. That year alone totaled about 757,000 incidents, which means there were about 15 crimes per 1,000 students during that school year alone.
The schools record specific kinds of violent incidents, and of those that occurred in 2013-14, 58% of public schools reported there had been at least one physical attack without a weapon or a fist fight. About 47% of the schools reported at least one threat of physical attack without a weapon. The threat of violence in today’s schools is real. Are you and your child prepared?
Now is the time to prepare yourself and your child for school violence and bullying. Know what steps you need to take and educate your child about the situations presented and how to respond to bullying or school violence. Remember, knowledge is essential in protecting your children and yourself from being a victim of school violence.
Violence and Bullying
There are several kinds of bullying in today’s advanced world. While technology may be a great advancement, it also has its downfalls. While there was a time you may have thought of bullying as taking someone’s lunch money, calling them names, or pushing them around, there are many other kinds of bullying in our technologically advanced age.
What Happens at School
There are many kinds of bullying that can happen at school. While physical bullying, verbal bullying, and vandalism and theft still exist, cyber bullying has made the news in recent years. Using social media, the bully will maliciously harass a student. This can be done by making derogatory remarks, abusing and belittling another student, or posting photos that are unflattering or compromising.
There have been many reports of cyberbullying in the news recently. There have been many cases in which a cyberbullying victim has committed suicide or the bully was criminally charged. One of the more memorable cases involved a 13-year-old named Megan Meier who hanged herself after being bullied by someone she thought was a boy she befriended online.
It was later learned that the boy was actually a former female friend, her friend’s mother, and their employee. Criminal charges were filed against the mother, Lori Drew, and she was found guilty of three charges. Later she was acquitted by a U.S. District Judge. Since then, there have been several other cases.
The bully may also play the victim so he can get by doing more harm. Reactive bullies will continue to taunt, tease, push, or hit others until the victim strikes out so they can then present themselves as victims and place the blame on others. There are many kinds of school violence and there are many causes for today’s unpleasant and threatening atmosphere in educational settings.
Causes of School Violence
- Students have a greater access to weapons, such as guns and knives.
- Cyber abuse is much more common because of Internet access, cell phones, and tablets. Social media’s popularity plays a major role as well.
- The environmental impact and its role, such as school environment, the existence of gangs, school size, middle schools, the community environment, and the family environment. Putting your child or teen in a positive environment in the community and home can play a significant role in helping them to avoid the dangers of violence.
The Signs a Child is Being Bullied
Parents should always be on the look for signs that a child is being bullied. While you may like to believe that your child would openly tell you if he or she is being bullied, that is not the case. Most children are embarrassed or ashamed of being bullied while it is not their fault. There are several things to watch for that may indicate your child is being picked on by others.
- Unexplained injuries.
- Destroyed or lost books, clothing, electronics, or jewelry.
- Faking illness or complaining of headaches and stomach aches.
- Changes in eating habits.
- Frequent nightmares or difficulty sleeping.
- Not wanting to go to school or declining grades.
- Avoiding social situations or loss of friends.
- Self-destructive behaviors or loss of self-esteem.
The Results of Educational Violence
Educational violence can cause all kinds of physical injuries as well as emotional damage. Students can suffer anything from cuts and bruises to broken bones to lost teeth and frighteningly, even gunshot wounds and death. The emotional damage can last for years after the bullying has been put to a stop, so make sure you seek treatment for your child if he or she has been a victim of bullying.
Kinds of Bullying
As previously mentioned, there are several kinds of bullying
- Physical Bullying – hitting, punching, fist fights
- Verbal Bullying – name calling, making fun of another, cursing
- Reactive Bullying – picking on others to get a reaction and then playing the victim
- Cyber-bullying – done through social media or text message
- Vandalism and Theft – damaging or stealing the property of others
Regardless of the kind of bullying that your child has suffered, you need to make sure he or she gets the help that is needed. Seek professional counseling or therapy to help him or her overcome the emotional and mental damage.
Why Don’t Children Ask for Help?
You have probably told your child to come to you with any problems, but when it comes to bullying most children don’t tell anyone. Bullying can make a child feel helpless and insecure. They may fear telling will make them look weaker or be viewed as a tattletale. There is also the fear of backlash from the bully and his friends.
Just remember, being bullied can be a humiliating experience. Children probably don’t want adults to be made aware of what is being said about them because they may fear the adults may judge them or punish them, regardless of whether what is being said is true or not. Bullied children fear rejection of their peers as well, and they may already feel isolated and alone.
Ways to Prevent Bullying
There are ways to prevent bullying. Some of the more effective approaches include:
- Establish a safe climate at home, in the community, and at school.
- Learn how to be more engaged in your children’s school life. Building a positive school climate is detrimental in preventing bullying.
- Assess bullying at your child’s school and understand how your child’s school stands in comparison to national bullying rates.
- Talk with your child about their concerns, and be direct. They may think that getting parents involved may worsen the bullying, so be sure to reassure them that you're there to help the situation.
- Avoid being misdirected in bullying prevention and response strategies.
- Learn about bullying so you know what it is and what it is not. While many behaviors may be just as serious a bullying, some may require different responses than how you respond to bullying.
- Speak with your children about bullying, and how they can stop it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and exposing children to ways to address a bully in their life can be extremely effective. It also opens the doors of communication so that a child can feel comfortable discussing it.
- Encourage your child to seek out friends for help in opposing a bully - peer pressure can be effective in getting bullies to stop their behavior.
Being aware of the situation and the warning sides are essential in helping to prevent bullying. Be proactive so you can address bullying issues right away.
Help Your Child!
No one wants their child to be a victim of bullying. There are several things you can do to help your child avoid bullying or bring an end to it if it does happen. Here are some things you need to know, so if the situation does arise the proper action can be taken right away.
Schools have a duty of care. If the school breaches the duty of care, you may be able to get compensation for any therapy bills, medical or dental expenses, or reimbursement for any out-of-pocket costs resulting from the altercation.
Teacher and administrator intervention. Teachers are required to do any reasonable action to protect their students’ welfare, health, and safety. Their legal responsibilities focus on three sources:
- Common Law Duty of Care
- Statutory Duty of Care
- The Duty Arising from the Contract of Employment
If the teacher or administrator does not step in to stop the fight before it happens, or during the actual fight, then they can be sued for breaching their responsibilities for duty of care.
Be familiar with the school’s protocol and policies as each state has different laws and regulations and each school has a different educational code. Educate yourself!
Understanding Parental Liability
Parents are criminally liable for negligence in not maintaining control of their children’s delinquent acts. Parental responsibility statues indicate that parents are not held responsible for their children’s acts, but of inadequately controlling their children.
There are some instances in which you cannot sue a public school. The Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C.§ 2674) explains how there are some instances in which a public school can’t be sued. A lawsuit can only be filed against a government entity in instances where there is actual negligence and not intentional misconduct. In order to sue the school system because your child was bullied, you will have to prove the school system’s negligence for not addressing the problem that they were made aware of previously.
There are many instances when you can’t sue a school. As an example, you can’t sue because of a school system employee’s official misconduct, but there is a fine line between negligence and misconduct in some instances. To clarify the details, you should consult with an attorney.
Getting the Evidence for a Case
If your child has been injured in a violent act at school, you may have a case against the school system or the bully and his family. There are several steps to gathering evidence for a case:
- Discovery, which includes deposition, interrogatories, request for admission, subpoena duces tecum
- Witness of the incident
- Exhibits, such as evidence, records, reports, video, photographs
- Damages – medical and dental bills, therapy costs, receipts
If your child has suffered school violence or bullying, you should consult with an attorney. School violence can cause personal injury that has lasting effects. Protect the rights of your child!