School is intended to be a safe place focused on learning and development. However, thousands of students across the nation fall victim to bullying each and every day. Bullying is an epidemic that is linked with negative impacts on learning, health, behavior, and educational outcomes.
Accordingly, in an effort to protect students, Virginia has formally recognized the seriousness of bullying with a set of anti-bullying laws and regulations that define “bullying” as follows:
Bullying means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or the aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. Bullying includes cyberbullying. Bullying does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-276.01 (2018).
As a result of this legislative effort, Virginia school districts are required to develop and maintain policies and procedures that specifically prohibit bullying in district codes of student conduct. While each school district may have slightly different policies and procedures to meet local needs; the general process for addressing a bullying situation follows the same three steps:
- Report the incident. Reporting may be anonymous. All reports should be documented on the school’s form(s) and appropriate records kept.
- School investigation into the incident. Promptly after receiving a report of bullying, the school principal (or designee) must conduct an investigation.
- School reports the investigation results. There are three possible outcomes:
a. If the reported incident falls within the scope of the school division’s anti-bullying policy, then appropriate consequences and/or interventions will be implemented. Appropriate support services will be provided for the victim and others affected by the bullying behavior.
b. If the incident falls outside the scope of the policy (e.g., the alleged activity took place off school grounds), or is considered a criminal act, a report may be made to law enforcement authorities as appropriate.
c. If the incident falls outside the scope of the policy, and is not a criminal act, the parents/guardians of all the students involved will be informed.
Despite these legally mandated policies and procedures, bullying remains a significant problem. For various reasons ranging from fear of a social stigma to future retaliation, it often goes unreported, making it nearly impossible for school officials to appropriately respond. But, thankfully, if you become aware of a potential bullying incident, parents are not confined to the processes of the school.
If you suspect that your child is a victim of bullying, Perkins Law may be able to help. We are now offering a flat rate Bullying Prevention & Resolution Package to help you and your child navigate the process of resolving unfortunate situations involving bullying and can provide the following services:
- An initial consultation to discuss factual background, an overview of the process, and potential strategies.
- Assistance with communicating with school officials, as appropriate.
- Assistance in navigating any school-specific resolution process(es).
- Assistance communicating with the parent, or legal guardian, of the alleged perpetrator to resolve the situation through effective communication.
- Assistance communicating with local law enforcement, as appropriate.
- Assistance with transitioning to civil litigation, as appropriate.
Please know that you and your family are not alone. If and when it makes sense to reach out to the school, or others involved, you have options. Click here for more details and reach out to Eric Perkins at [email protected] or (804)205-5162 to discuss your situation.