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Bullying & Cyberbullying: What Educators and Board Members Need to Know Harding & Shultz (402) 434-3000 H & S School Law khaase@hslegalfirm.com @KarenHaase

swiliams@hslegalfirm.com @SteveisEsteban

btruhe@hslegalfirm.com @btruhe


Bullying? “any ongoing pattern of physical, verbal, or electronic abuse on school grounds, in a vehicle owned, leased, or contracted by a school being used for a school purpose by a school employee or his or her designee, or at school-sponsored activities or school-sponsored athletic events.�


Cyberbullying? Cyberbullying, v: the use of technology such as computers and cell phones to engage in repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others. The term "cyberbullying" is used when the victim or bully is a child or teen. The term cyber harassment is used when the victim is an adult.


Is This Really a Problem?  1 in 4 kids admit to being cyberbullied  65% of kids know someone being cyberbullied  22% of teens have been cyber pranked  29% of teens admit that they have posted mean info about someone else  24% of teens have had private or embarrassing information revealed against their will


Is This Really a Problem?  86% of teenagers have been stalked by a stranger on their Facebook account.  55% of teens admit they’ve given personal information to someone they do not know  30% of teens have arranged to meet in person someone they met on social media


Isn’t this a Parent Issue?  47% of parents admit that they “do little or nothing” to monitor online  67% of teenagers say they know how to hide what they do online from parents.  43% of teens say they would change their online behavior if they knew that their parents were watching them.  39% of teens think their online activity is private from everyone


Bullying Litigation


Patterson v. Hudson Area Sch. Dist. (6th Cir. 2010)

 Student viewed by peers as gay  Middle school: name calling and verbal harassment.  high school: • pushed into lockers • “a naked student rubbing against him” in a locker room.


Patterson v. Hudson Area Sch. Dist. (6th Cir. 2010)

 School had anti-bullying policy  On some occasions bullies reported and punished; other times teachers ignored  One teacher: “How does it feel to be hit by a girl?”  Jury awarded $800,000


Phillips v. Robertson County Bd. (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012)

 Student with Asperger syndrome • Private counselor sent letter • Parent constantly reporting bullying and asking for help

• School developed system for kid • Preferential seating • Card system to signal when feeling bullied or stressed


Phillips v. Robertson County Bd. (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012)

 Teacher left student classroom unsupervised • Student struck in the eye by bully • Sustained permanent damage

 Teacher testified • Didn’t know about disability • Didn’t know about accommodations

 Court ordered $300,000 judgment


Estate of Lance v. Kyer (Texas 2010)

 9 year old boy with disabilities hanged himself in school restroom after being bullied  Parents sued claiming disability discrimination  Court: district personnel had a consistent policy of ignoring bullying against all students, do no discrim.


Kendall v. West Haven Dep’t. of Ed. (Conn. 2000)

 Elementary special ed student injured by another student • Parents called and reported prior incidents to assistant principal • Assistant principal said she would take care of it • Assistant principal then called out of building


Kendall v. West Haven Dep’t. of Ed. (Conn. 2000)

 The student seriously injured when the bully attacked him in the school cafeteria.  Court awarded $67,000 in damages  Found the assistant principal personally liable


G.M v. Dryceek Joint Elem. Sch. (Cal. 2012)

 Student bullied 5 times in 6 months • After first incident teacher said she’d watch the situation • After similar incident teacher and counselor met with bullies • Assistant principal met with bullies • Bully punched victim in face and received 5-day suspension


G.M v. Dryceek Joint Elem. Sch. (Cal. 2012)

 Court: school officials took action aimed at stopping the harassment each time  Deliberate indifference requires that district know of harm and failed to act


Los Angeles Unif. Sch. Dist., (2006)

 SpEd Student bullied and cyberbullied  Teacher knew of on-line comments; did nothing, posted on one page  OCR: “…the teacher's actions and inactions created a hostile environment for the Student based on disability.”


J.C. v. Beverly Hills Unif. S. D. (2010 Cal.)

 8th grade girls talking smack about a peer; uploaded to YouTube  Principal suspended student who uploaded  Dad was an entertainment industry lawyer; sued district claiming First Amendment protection


J.C. v. Beverly Hills Unif. S. D. (2010 Cal.)

 Court: The good intentions of the school notwithstanding, it cannot discipline a student for speech, “simply because young persons are unpredictable or immature, or because, in general, teenagers are emotionally fragile and may often fight over hurtful comments.”  $107,150.80 in attorneys fees


J.C. v. Beverly Hills Unif. S. D. (2010 Cal.)

 Dad: • Hopes his daughter learns a lesson about the limits on governmental intrusion. • “The school doesn’t have that kind of power. It’s up to the parents to discipline their child.” • Chastised daughter: “That wasn’t a nice thing to do.”


Fairfield-Suisun Unif Sch Dist (Cal. Dep’t Ed. 2012)

 Student threatened to torture and kill peer  School expelled  Staff had expressed concerns over student’s disturbing behavior before  ALJ concluded that the district should have conducted an MD review prior to expelling him


Rose Tree Media Sch. Dist. (PA 2010)

 Middle school student found not eligible for SpEd; parent filed DP  Parents complained • peers posting insults Facebook • peers regularly taunted at school • Peers pushed and spashed water on him


Rose Tree Media Sch. Dist. (PA 2010)

 School • Investigated incidents • Student extremely sensitive and misinterpreted normal interactions • found him ineligible for an IEP

 H.O: school should have considered • disability made student a target • emotional difficulties caused misinterpretation of others' actions


Cyber/bullying Responses     

Keep “Responding and Reporting” separate in your mind (and your staff’s mind) Focus on Small Stuff DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT Look for nexus Don’t make promises you can’t keep


Helping Kids Deal; Tell them to: 

Stop. Don’t respond to the bully.

Block. Block the cyberbully or limit all communications to those you can trust.

Tell. Tell a trusted adult.


Does Victim Need Interventions? 

Interventions • Social skill training • Hygiene training with, sped teacher, counselor or other staff • Peer mentor  Be ready for a 504 or SpEd request


Bullying & Cyberbullying: What Educators and Board Members Need to Know Harding & Shultz (402) 434-3000 H & S School Law khaase@hslegalfirm.com @KarenHaase

swiliams@hslegalfirm.com @SteveisEsteban

btruhe@hslegalfirm.com @btruhe

bullying and cyberbullying Labor Relations 2013  
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