What is bullying?
In North Carolina, bullying (or harassing behavior) is defined as “any pattern of gestures or written, electronic, or verbal communications, or any physical act any physical act or any threatening communication, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, or on a school bus, and that: (1) Places a student or school employee in actual and reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property; or (2) Creates or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student's educational performance, opportunities, or benefits.” Bullying is characterized by aggression used within a relationship where the aggressor has more real or perceived power than the target and the aggression is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.
Disability harassment under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") is intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying the student's participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution's program. When a student with a disability is being bullied at school, the bullying can result in a denial of a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") under Section 504 and the IDEA.
What can I do to stop bullying?
The first step in addressing bullying is to send a written correspondence to your child's principal concerning the bullying. The letter should detail the bullying that your child has experienced including when the bullying happened, the child/children involved in the bullying, and what was done or said to your child. If you do not provide notice to the school, you may not be able to pursue legal action against the school. If you meet certain legal requirements, including appropriate notice, school districts may be liable under state and/or federal law if they fail to address bullying. This is especially true if the school district was aware of the student's disability-related vulnerabilities and failed to take steps to protect them.
The Law Office of Neubia L. Harris, PLLC can assist with properly notifying a school/school district of bullying behavior, advocating for the school/school district to comply with North Carolina law in response to bullying behavior, and/or seeking judicial relief from a school/school district for failure to appropriately address bullying.
Contact us today.