Last updated: May 2, 2018
A recent study reports that bullying in New York City Schools has increased 10% over the past year. Parents can fight back by knowing their legal rights and what actions they can take to help stop school bullying.
Not too long ago, a 17-year-old Manhattan high school student committed suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming subway train. Other students reported that she was tired of being bullied at school. Tired of being called “stupid, ugly or awkward.” Instead of dealing with the issue head-on, school officials told students not to discuss the dead girl. According to one student, they were told “not to talk about her or what happened.” Some students said they actually felt guilty about the way they had treated her.
In another case, New York City School officials agreed to transfer a 10-year-old student to a new school after he told his mother he was going to kill himself. The child had come home with a bloody nose and black eye after being repeatedly bullied by other students. It is elementary school and already rife with bullies.
These are just two incidents among thousands that happen every year in the New York City school system. Sadly, the situation is only getting worse.
Study: 81 Percent of Students Believe Peers Have Been Harassed, Bullied or Intimidated
New York City schools have a bully problem. In August, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) published the results of a recent study showing that bullying incidents increased by 10 percent over those that were reported for the previous school year. The survey was based on 11 questions about the school experience, in general, asked of students between grades 6 and 12. Question eight asked students to rate how often they thought students were bullied at their school based on various factors.
The responses for the school year 2016 to 2017 indicated that 81 percent of students believed that students had been bullied between rarely or most of the time, as opposed to the other choice: never. For the previous school year, only 71 percent of students expressed this belief. The sampling size was approximately the same for both years.
The DOE argued that the surveys from the two years cannot be compared because the questions asked were not identical. Further arguing that while the questions asked are identical from year to year, the percentage of students who respond that they feel safe at school has stayed the same. Even so, 65 percent of the students responded to the 2017 survey by saying that kids bullied each other at school because of:
- National origin
- Citizenship or immigration status
For the previous school year, only 55 percent of students reported they thought students were bullied on these grounds, but the only choices were based on race or ethnicity. The other choices included in the 2017 survey were not included in the survey for 2016.
This year, 73 percent of students said kids were bullied over things like their weight or disability. Although in 2016, only 46 percent of students said kids are bullied for those reasons, weight and disability were included with other choices and not as stand alone reasons. In 2016, 46 percent reported bullying due to their gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual identity, that percentage increased in 2017 to 59 percent of the students.
Unfortunately, bullying is not going away. If your child is being bullied at school, there are some steps you can take.
Parents Rights Against Bullying in NYC Schools
The NYCDOE publishes a student/parent guide for reporting bullying incidents to authorities. It informs students and parents of the main steps to take which include:
- Ask your child to provide details about any bullying event, including how many times it has happened, what he or she does about it and if the child is worried about it happening again
- Contact your child’s teacher or principal.
- Every school in New York State is required to have a “dignity act coordinator” who is trained to handle bullying issues. Contact that person.
If you are not satisfied with the actions taken by your student’s teacher, principal or dignity act coordinator, you should consult an attorney to explore your legal options.
Taking Legal Action Against Bullying In Schools
Your child is entitled to attend school in an environment where he or she feels safe, free from the bullying by other children. If the school officials who are charged with providing a safe learning environment are negligent in their duty and your child suffers damages, either physically or emotionally as a result of the negligence, you may need to take legal action.
In serious situations of negligence or deliberate indifference, suing a school district for bullying may be the best recourse. At Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, we take all allegations of student bullying seriously. If you believe your child is being bullied and are unsatisfied by the actions or inaction of your school district, we invite you to contact our firm to discuss your legal rights.