Q – What can I do if my child is being harassed/bullied by other students in school?
A – Federal, state and local laws protect students from harassment based on the student's disability, race or gender. The law protects students from both physical and emotional pain, but not every negative encounter between students presents a legal issue. To be illegal, the harassment has to be so bad that it makes it difficult for a student to learn or take part in school activities.
First step is to inform the student's teacher of bullying and see if the matter can be resolved quickly. If the harassment continues or escalates, the principal or the superintendent should be contacted immediately. Despite these efforts, if the school district fails to take reasonable steps to end the harassment against your child, the district may be in violation of federal, state and/or local laws. As a lawyer, I am able to assist parents initiate civil complaints against the school district and its personnel who failed to resolve the bullying situation.
If your child has a learning disability, s/he is especially vulnerable to bullying problems. Under Section 504, Title II and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) the school is required to prevent disability harassment that prevents your child from receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
As a special education attorney, I will be able to assist parents by demanding the school that an IEP meeting be immediately held to address the bullying issue. During the meeting, the IEP team and I would discuss ways to ensure that your child is free from harassment in school and ways to remedy the effects of the harassment by implementing a safety plan. Despite these efforts, if the bullying doesn't stop, I would initiate a due process procedure or a court action.
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