The Different Forms of Bullying (and what to do about it)

When it comes to bullying, it is helpful to understand how the term is defined—not every mean, rude, or offensive act constitutes bullying (as a legal matter)—and that bullying comes in different forms.  Misuse of the term diminishes the plight of victims and desensitizes the public to the magnitude and severity of the problem.

Common Forms of Bullying

In Virginia, 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 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.” Given this legal definition, what are some different types of bullying parents should watch for?

  1. Physical Bullying. Physical bullying (also referred as battery) is generally the most identifiable form of bullying. It occurs when a person uses physical actions to intimidate and harm another person. Examples of physical bullying include punching, kicking, hitting, slapping, pushing, and shoving.
  2. Verbal Bullying. Verbal bullying occurs when someone uses words, statements, and name-calling to intimidate and harm their victims. Verbal bullying includes insults to belittle, demean, taunt, and otherwise hurt another person.
  3. Emotional Bullying. Emotional bullying is usually less conspicuous. It occurs when someone hurt another person through social manipulation and sabotage (e.g., ostracization from groups, spreading rumors, manipulation of situations, and breaking confidences).
  4. Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying (as the name implies) occurs when someone uses the Internet (or other technology) to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target a victim. Examples of cyberbullying include posting hurtful images, making online threats, and sending distressing emails or text messages.
  5. Sexual Bullying. Sexual bullying occurs when someone repeatedly targets a person in a sexual manner. Examples include sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, and sending obscene materials.
  6. Prejudicial Bullying. Prejudicial bullying can encompass all types of bullying. It occurs where someone bullies their victim based on prejudices toward people of different races, religions, or sexual orientations. It is often a more severe form of bullying and can be a precursor to the commission of hate crimes.

What You Can Do

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to stop or prevent your child or loved one from being a victim of bullying. Legally, school officials are required to take reasonable efforts to prevent bullying they know (or should know) about that results in serious mental or physical harm to a student. A school district itself can become legally responsible if it is found to have failed to make reasonable efforts to prevent or stop the offending behavior.

If you suspect that your child is a victim of bullying, consider taking the following actions:

  1. Actively listen to your child and take detailed notes.
  2. Submit a detailed complaint to the school.
  3. Set limits on your child’s online presence.
  4. Keep a detailed record of all accounts of bullying.
  5. Speak to the school’s guidance counselor or other appropriate official (if applicable).
  6. Read the school’s code of conduct and anti-bullying policies and procedures.
  7. Seek advice and assistance from an attorney if you are not comfortable with the progress you have made on your own in resolving the situation.

What We Can Do

If you suspect that your child is a victim of bullying, Perkins Law can help your family navigate the process of finding a resolution as your advisor and advocate through a flat fee package of services including the following:

  1. An initial consultation to discuss the factual background, desired outcomes, and resolution strategies.
  2. Communicating with school officials.
  3. Navigating school resolution procedures.
  4. Communicating with the parent/legal guardian of the alleged perpetrator.
  5. Communicating with local law enforcement (as appropriate).

This flat fee package costs $1,500 and includes up to ten (10) hours of assistance as summarized above.  Additional time worked, if necessary, will be billed at a discounted hourly rate of $150.

Please contact Eric C. Perkins, Esq. at (804) 205-5162 or [email protected] to discuss your situation. 

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