- 2017 saw 6,107 reported cases of bullying in Florida.
- According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 31% of all students are bullied.
- 64% of victims will not report that they have been bullied.
Bullying is defined as unwanted and aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. Bullying is a behavior that has the potential to be repeated or is repeated over time. For a behavior to constitute bullying, it must:
- Include an imbalance of power. Popularity, access to embarrassing information and physical size can all contribute to such an imbalance. That power is used to control or harm another person.
- Be repeated. Behaviors must have the potential to happen or do happen more than once.
According to experts, there are three different types of bullying:
1. Verbal bullying includes teasing, name calling, taunting, inappropriate sexual comments or threats of harm. These things can occur verbally or in writing.
2. Social bullying includes spreading rumors, purposely leaving someone out, embarrassing someone publicly or telling one child not to be friends with another.
3. Physical bullying includes tripping, spitting, striking, kicking, or taking or breaking someone’s belongings. It can also include rude hand gestures.
Bullying can happen at any time and anywhere. Instances of bullying that are most reported occur on school grounds, but may also happen on the bus or playground. Bullying can also occur online and while traveling to and from school.
Effects of Bullying on the Victim
Because all children are different, the effects of bullying can be unique. One of the typical signs of bullying is a decrease in academic performance. UCLA studied 2,300 students in middle schools across Los Angeles and found that bullying resulted in lowered performance.
Other effects of bullying may include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in eating habits
- Lowered self-esteem
- Social isolation
- Psychosomatic symptoms
Without treatment, a victim may experience long-term effects of bullying. These may include:
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance abuse
Anti-Bullying Measures in Florida
Florida takes bullying very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that there have been laws created that ensure schools in the state have anti-bullying measures in place. Fla. Stat. Ann. 1006.147(3) (2010) states:
“(a) ‘Bullying’ means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve: (1) Teasing; (2) Social exclusion; (3) Threat; (4) Intimidation; (5) Stalking; (6) Physical violence; (7) Theft; (8) Sexual, religious, or racial harassment; (9) Public humiliation; or (10) Destruction of property. … “
“(4) Each school district shall adopt and review at least every 3 years a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution. Each school district’s policy shall be in substantial conformity with the Department of Education’s model policy. The school district bullying and harassment policy shall afford all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law.”
Further Efforts Against Bullying in Florida
The state of Florida is not stopping there. Senate Bill 1172 was recently signed into law. Now that it has passed, the law gives victims of bullying or sexual harassment a chance to attend private school. Schools that have 10 or more students take advantage of the ability to transfer due to bullying or harassment would be subject to investigation by the Department of Education.
The Hope Scholarship program is designed to empower victims by providing them with school choice. A victim of bullying may be awarded a voucher-like scholarship that would provide the the opportunity to attend a different school instead of remaining in place and feeling trapped.
It will not be enough for a student to claim to be bullied or harassed. A principal would be tasked with the responsibility of investigating claims of bullying to determine their merit and decide if a student is eligible for the scholarship. Victims wouldn’t be only given the option for a private school scholarship, they would also be given the option to transfer to another public school in the area.
While the law is meant to empower victims, some bullying experts are not convinced it’s the answer. According to the founder of the Stop Bullying Now Foundation, Lowell Levine:
“The problem with the bill is that it does not address the problem. If the [bullied] child leaves the public school, the bully is going to pick on someone else.” (The bill is now law).
Others agree with Levine. Advocates point to the fact that private schools often have the same rate of bullying as public schools. They also say that private schools are not subject to the same regulations as public schools and may not have anti-bullying measures in place.
How a West Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Can Help
At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we believe in the rights of victims. If your child has been injured by a bully, either physically or mentally your family has legal rights. We will fight on your behalf to ensure your child is fairly compensated. Dealing with bullying can be stressful for the whole family, and we are here for you. Your child does not deserve to be victimized in school or anywhere else.
Reach out to our team to schedule a free case evaluation. A West Palm Beach personal injury attorney and will review the details of your child’s incidents of bullying and advise you of your legal rights and options. Your child deserves expert legal representation. Call our office today.