A School’s Duty to Respond: When Bullying Leads to Self-Harm

We all know the classic sitcom scene where the older student approaches the younger, smaller kid and before tossing him in the locker, makes sure to collect both present and future payments for lunch money, leaving the victim helpless and embarrassed. In the past, it was easier for parents and educators to know whether a student was being bullied on campus. The taunting, name-calling, and pushing often happened in the hallways or on walks home from school; within earshot of someone. Since the advancement of social media, however, an interesting dichotomy has developed. While students can share their lives instantly with practically anyone around the world, much of what they experience and endure remains unknown to those sitting in the same room. With the continuous advancement of social media and lack of parental supervision or involvement in their child's online activities, cyberbullying has become an unfortunate reality for a majority of students around the country.

But what happens when a school fails to police and respond to bullying or cyberbullying on campus? In grim news reports, we often hear of distraught students who, driven by emotional stress, resort to various forms of self-harm. If your student has been the victim of bullying and is engaging in any form of self-harm, it's important to remember that your child's school has a legal obligation to ensure that they provide a safe and secure learning environment, free of harassment and emotional distress. In instances where a school has failed to adequately prevent or respond to bullying, a qualified education attorney can help.

Federal Laws Mandate Schools to Respond to Various Forms of Bullying

Although no federal law to date directly addresses “bullying,” multiple federal laws enforced by the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Justice prohibit discriminatory harassment in federally funded schools. Under