The MLO Minute: By, Michael Connolly, Esq., Supervising Partner of Special Education
If you have watched the nightly news or read the newspaper over the past few years, bullying in schools across the country and its often tragic consequences are undeniable and sobering. Just this past month – September of 2020 – was National Suicide Prevention Month. The statistics on suicide, particularly among teens and young adults is shocking. Between 2007 and 2017, the suicide rate among individuals ages 10 to 24 years old climbed by a staggering 56%. We also know that youth who report being frequently bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior, and some of our most vulnerable youth, e.g., students with disabilities, are most at-risk for being bullied. Sadly, our office has seen the tragic results of bullying as we have handled several cases where years of on-going bullying unaddressed by the school have resulted in a young student’s life tragically being cut short.
It is important for every school to not only have in place anti-bullying policies, but to ensure that those policies are followed, that teachers and staff are trained to recognize bullying and appropriately intervene, and that students learn appropriate coping skills. As parents, if you have knowledge or believe your or another child is being bullied, notify the school district in writing each time you become aware of an incident, and provide whatever information or details you can. The school district has an obligation to investigate incidents of bullying and intervene. In addition to the increased risk of suicide-related behaviors, bullying can also negatively impact your child’s educational program. Often students that are bullied at school will complain of headaches, stomachaches, or fain other symptoms to get out of having to go to school or a particular class. As such, if your child receives services under a Section 504 service Plan or an IEP, you can and should request a 504 or IEP meeting and ask that your child’s program be revised to address issues of bullying, including the provision of counseling services to help develop coping and self advocacy skills.
If your school refuses to take seriously incidents of bullying, we are here to help. Our firm possesses collectively over a century of special education advocacy experience and has been a leader in protecting the rights of students with disabilities. Our initial consultation is without charge, and most of our cases are handled without fees paid by parents of children with disabilities. Contact us today by clicking here or call 610-648-9300.