As children get ready to return to school, it is important to remember that as a parent you have a role to play in preventing bullying. Bullying is "unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance."
The data is troubling. One in three California middle school and high school students reported having been harassed or bullied at least once in the previous year, according to the 2011-2013 California Healthy Kids Survey administered by the California Department of Education. Race or national origin, followed by their sexuality or perceived sexuality, were the reasons identified by the harassed or bullied students to explain why they were targeted for bullying in all grades.
California Anti-Bullying Laws and Policies
State lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Key legislation is as follows:
- California Education Code §§ 32261, 32265, 32270, and 48900 defines bullying of pupils to include bullying committed by means of an electronic act, and authorizes school officials to suspend or recommend for expulsion pupils who engage in bullying.
- It is a crime for parents to fail to "exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection and control" over their children, and one of the possible penalties is incarceration. State law also provides statutory civil liability of $25,000 against a parent or guardian of a minor that committed willful misconduct resulting in injury or death to another person.
In addition, parents can also be civilly liable for negligent supervision of their child. If a parent has reason to know their child is doing something that could be harmful and fails to control those actions, any injury the child causes can be legally blamed on the parents. The determining factor is what the parents did to change the child's behavior, not that the parents were able to stop the bullying.
Evidence of parental knowledge can be direct, such as testimony of a witness who heard the parent mention their child's bullying, or it can be proven by indirect or circumstantial evidence.
Damages for the wrongful death of a child provides for compensation of losses that are otherwise immeasurable - the loss of love, companionship, affection, care, assistance, protection, and moral support.
How to Talk About Bullying
Help your child understand bullying by keeping the lines of communication open. Remember to model how to treat others with kindness and respect. If you hear from a teacher, school administrator, parent, other child, or sibling that your child may be acting like a bully, you must address the problem. Work with your child to stop the bullying and help your child understand the impact of his or her actions before irreversible harm is caused and parental liability attaches.
Hire A Lawyer
Each case of bullying is different. Civil liability depends on the facts of each case. You may be able to sue for assault and battery, civil conspiracy, defamation, emotional distress, fraud, harassment, negligence, negligent entrustment, parental liability, sexual battery, stalking, or wrongful death.
If your child has been a victim of bullying, you'll need a lawyer who understands California's anti-bullying laws and policies and will fight for your child's rights. Contact the Law Offices of Brian Brandt online or call (909) 932-1162 to schedule your free case evaluation today.