It is a parent’s worst nightmare when a child comes home from school injured either from another student or even from school staff. When you send your child off to school, you expect to be sending them to a safe learning environment, however this is not always the case. Sometimes parents can feel helpless because of their lack of control and inability to protect their child in the school environment. Bullying should be taken seriously and can have serious consequences on a child.
While the pain of a physical attack often fades quickly, being a social outcast can last for months or years, and the social and emotional impact can persist into adulthood (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).
Special Education and BullyingChildren in special education or who have a 504 plan are especially vulnerable to bullying and abuse – but fortunately, they have more protections legally than regular education children do in many instances. In one study, 90% of the mothers of children with Asperger’s syndrome reported that their child had been a target of some form of bullying within the previous year (Little, 2002). Researchers believe this value may be a conservative estimate because targets can be reluctant to report bullying even to their parents (Hay et al. 2004, Attwood, 2004).
80% of adolescents and 90% of 4th through 8th graders reported being bullied at school (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). Students reported that 71% of the teachers or other adults in the classroom ignored bullying incidents (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). There is evidence showing peer group support for aggressive behaviors as early as the first grade (Estell, et al., 2002).
Most states, including Indiana, do not yet collect information on bullying incidents, although the accumulation and dissemination of such data would seem to be useful in examining bullying in schools and determining why it persists (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). As of 2003, twenty-two states have adopted policies to deal with bullying; Indiana is not one of the states (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). In 2005 Indiana adopted a token attempt to address bullying by amending the discipline rules governing school corporations to (1) prohibit bullying, (2) include provisions concerning education, parental involvement, reporting, investigation, and intervention apply to students (1) on school grounds, (2) at school activity, function, or event, (3) traveling to or from school or school activity, function, or event, or (4) using property or equipment provided by the school. However, noncompliance with this section by the school may not be used as evidence against the school (IC 20-33-8-13.5).
If you suspect sexual or any other type of abuse of your child by other students or school staff, you should contact police and Child Protective Services immediately, as well as attorney. Whether you and your child are entitled to monetary damages or other remedies for what has transpired is a time-sensitive, fact-sensitive inquiry.