What rights do parents have to counter school bullying?

All of Cincinnati is surely stunned at the developing story about an 8-year-old boy who hanged himself back in January. This week, the Hamilton County coroner announced that she's reopening the investigation into his death.

There is no indication at this point that the cause of death will change. However, revelations that the young boy took his own life two days after he was apparently beaten into unconsciousness in a school bullying incident could lead to conclusions that other factors contributed. Legal observers would agree that the probe could reveal that inadequate or negligent security at the school was an element. That could support a wrongful death claim. 

Ohio law regarding bullying

Every parent with a child in an Ohio school has a right to expect that their child will be safe throughout the course a school day or while participating in a school activity. Toward that end, Ohio law requires certain things. These include establishing policies against student harassment, intimidation and bullying. These must include information on how to:

  • Report an incident
  • Document and respond to incidents
  • Notify parents of victims and perpetrators
  • Administer discipline of guilty individuals
  • Ensure the protection of a victim after bullying is reported

A school policy might not include informing the victim's parents about the perpetrator, but it should spell out what has been done to be sure nothing happens to the victim in the future.

If your child is the target of bullies, or you suspect that to be the case, you should make a point of reading your school's existing policies. Schools are required to provide them in the form of a published student handbook. If you do report matters to the school, document them by letter or email. Keep a file of the contacts you make and ask the school to tell you what actions they take in response.

Children are often unwilling to report bullying when it happens. Maybe they fear retribution or that mom or dad won't take the issue seriously. As adults, we have a responsibility to keep our children safe and hold those who harm them accountable.

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