When Can a School Be Held Accountable for Bullying?

Bullying is a significant problem in 2019 that can affect a victim, and their families, in many ways. A child could suffer physical, mental, and emotional damages from a bullying experience at school. The depression and anxiety from being bullied could turn into long-term mental health issues or suicidal thoughts or actions. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your child from bullying. One of the actions that may be available is bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the school.

What Is the Definition of Bullying in Georgia?

Georgia state law defines bullying as an act that occurs on school property, at school bus stops, school trips, activities or functions, and on school vehicles that fulfills one of three main types of actions.

  1. A willful attempt or threat to injure another person
  2. An intentional display of force that makes the victim reasonably anticipate bodily harm
  3. An intentional act (physical, verbal or written) that a reasonable person would take as a threat

The act must cause the victim substantial physical harm or visible bodily harm, substantially interfere with the victim’s education, be so persistent or severe as to create a hostile educational environment or have the effect of disrupting the operation of the school. Bullying can also refer to actions committed through a computer system or another electronic technology of a school system.

State and Federal Laws Against Bullying

Georgia Code 20-2-751.4 states that as of August 1st, 2011, all boards of education must adopt anti-bullying policies in their schools. Student codes of conduct must contain language that prohibits bullying of any kind. Local boards must also adopt policies that upon learning a student has committed three or more bullying offenses in a school year, must assign that student to an alternative school. The board of education must notify the parents of a student who has suffered bullying or has committed a bullying offense. The federal government has also adopted laws against bullying, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act.

What Are the Signs My Child Is Being Bullied at School?

Many students who experience bullying in Georgia do not come forward or ask for help. It is often up to parents and loved ones to recognize the signs of bullying and to intervene.

  • Unexplained or frequent injuries
  • Damaged or destroyed belongings
  • Faking illness to get out of school
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares
  • Decline in school performance
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt or shame
  • Self-harm or self-destructive behaviors

If you notice any possible signs of bullying, speak to your child to try to identify the source of the issue. Then, speak to a lawyer to understand your rights and options as a parent.

Can I File a Lawsuit Against a School for Bullying?

A family can file a lawsuit against a school in Georgia for bullying. First, file a complaint with school officials. Describe the situation in as much detail as possible, naming the bullies if your child knows their identities. The school should then take steps to respond to the complaint and put an end to bullying on school grounds.

Unfortunately, schools in Georgia have a history of ignoring bullying complaints. While schools in Georgia reported just 4,090 discipline cases for bullying one year, 64,458 students in a Georgia Health Survey said they had experienced bullying three or more times in a month the same year. If your child’s school failed to adequately respond to a bullying complaint and this led to further harm against your child, the school could be civilly liable.

An attorney can help you bring a civil lawsuit against a negligent school that will not properly respond to bullying complaints. A lawyer can help you fill out the correct paperwork and bring your lawsuit before Georgia’s statute of limitations. Your family has rights in the face of bullying. Speak to an Atlanta personal injury attorney about your options today. ChancoSchiffer P.C. offers free consultations. If you’d like to schedule yours, contact our office today.