Special Needs Students – Bullying Issues

Special Needs Bullying IssuesBullying and cyberbullying are now taken very seriously in the wake of countless suicides and school shootings involving bullying victims. The excuse “kids being kids” is dismissed, and schools have a legal duty to protect all students, especially those with special needs.

The statistics show that 20.2% of students report being bullied (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019), and sadly students with disabilities are statistically at greater risk of being bullied. On top of these challenges, dealing with a bully can severely prevent students from learning and growing in a positive manner as the stress and fear of being bullied could also be a part of what is causing their learning or behavioral challenges.

Most adults have some painful memories of school-yard or back of the bus bullying that could lead to negative experiences such as decreased self-esteem in the workplace or social situations. Tragically, with the rise of technology, today’s youth suffer from far more advanced, strategic, and mysterious bullying. Age-old bullying such as racial harassment and “making fun of” a differently-abled peer is still common, but now with the rise of cyberbullying, students can never escape it. Students can not just leave the playground and feel safe. They are being attacked 24/7 on their phones, computers, social media, and beyond. This type of bullying can never be deleted, is viewed by the general public, and can be more damaging than in-person bullying. For a student with learning or behavioral challenges, this can especially be detrimental as they could already struggle with self-worth, making friends, and social skills.

Common Examples of Bullying Include:
  • A child often asks to “stay home” or ditches school
  • Physical illnesses such as headaches, backaches, and stomachaches are becoming frequent
  • A child has unexplained bumps, bruises, or cuts on more than one occasion
  • A child increasingly suffers from low self-esteem
Common Effects of Bullying Include:
  • Increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide-related behavior (Center for Disease Control, 2019)
  • Increased risk of the student not wanting to attend school, lower academic achievement, and eventually dropping out of school (Center for Disease Control, 2019)
  • Both students that are bullying or being bullied are at increased risk for mental health and behavior problems (Center for Disease Control, 2019)
  • Physical illnesses such as headaches, backaches, and stomachaches are becoming frequent
  • A child has unexplained bumps, bruises, or cuts on more than one occasion
  • Students who self-blame and tell themselves that they deserve to be bullied are twice as likely as non-bullied peers to experience depression, prolonged victimization, and maladjustment (Perren Ettakal, & Ladd, 2013)

What Rights Do Students and Families Have?

Students have the right to “attend classes on school campuses that are safe, secure, and peaceful.” “Harassment at school based on disability puts this right to an equal educational opportunity in danger.” These are a few of the rights included in the California anti-bullying laws designed to help teachers and family members deal with a case of bullying––including additional laws just for students with disabilities. The school districts prohibit bullying of all forms, including harassment and intimidation––online, off-campus, or at school. They must provide teacher training and have statements, procedures, and resources available to educators and students. Additionally, they must provide resources and protection to at-risk students. These specific at-risk groups include immigration status, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

California school districts must inform parents or legal guardians when a student is involved in an act of harassment, intimidation, cyber sexual bullying, or bullying, and must make available information on statewide resources to parents or legal guardians regarding harassment, intimidation, cyber sexual bullying, and bullying.

When Should Someone Seek the Services of a California Education Attorney Who Specializes in Bullying Issues?

Legally, schools must do all they are required to do and all they reasonably can do to help stop and prevent bullying. They also must report to parents and support those experiencing bullying as it causes severe mental and/or physical harm to a student. If the school district doesn’t act appropriately and provide a reasonable solution, they can become legally responsible. Attorneys specializing in bullying cases, especially in regards to students with special needs, can help families pursue legal claims against schools and/or parents who are not working to stop the bullying.

Here’s How We Can Help

The Law Offices of Jennifer Chang believe in protecting students’ rights to a safe and positive education under California laws. If your child is experiencing bullying and the school district has neglected to act, our attorneys will fight vigorously on your family’s behalf. Jennifer Chang has offices in California in Los Angeles, Buena Park, and San Jose.

Please reach out to us today online or call (323) 931-5270 to discuss your case.