Bullying Court Cases

Peggy Burns, Esq.
Education Compliance Group, Inc.
[email protected]
Copyright © 2012, Education Compliance Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
What is the difference?
The importance of label
What is the appropriate response?
“Knew or should have known” standard
Has the educational environment become
Need for comprehensive approach to
Several classmates repeatedly called a student w/ a
learning disability “stupid,” “idiot,” and “retard” in
school and on the bus. One occasion was particularly
violent. The student complained to his teacher and
the driver. He was offered counseling and
psychiatric evaluation, but the district did not
discipline the aggressors. The harassment continued.
The student, who had been performing well
academically, became angry, frustrated, and
depressed, and often refused to get on the bus,
causing him to miss school.
Harassment begins with one aggressor.
District fails to address the conduct
appropriately, and other students join in. This
treatment becomes sufficiently persistent and
pervasive that it interferes with the student’s
participation in the educational program.
Student is subjected to extreme isolation,
ostracism, and taunting. Drivers and aides –
like classroom teachers – ignore efforts of other
students to advocate for her, and, in fact, view
the victim as the trouble-maker.
Long term, on-going, peer harassment can
become entrenched and “unfixable”; school bus
provides harassers a “ripe opportunity” to
continue harassment
The bus was a “hell hole” that typified the “racial
tidal wave” existing at school. Administrators
imposed “meaningless” consequences with no
emphasis on prevention. Administrators,
including superintendent, are non-responsive to
Students are involved in a serious incident of sexual
molestation at the end of the school day. Despite
knowledge of the incident, school officials permit
victim to board the bus with aggressor, with no
information to the transportation department in
general, or the driver in particular. The aggressor
picks up where he left off.
District’s failure to follow its own policy for
investigation and consequent discipline for
harassment led to continued victimization of
Controlled bus environment is a stronger goal
than a “bully-free” or “fight-free” or “alcoholfree” environment. Here are the indicators:
Students are required to remain in their seats
 Effective seating charts are designed and enforced
 Students who require supervision are identified and
 Drivers speak up, pull over as necessary, and,
generally intervene in student-student conflict
Drivers process write-ups
Transportation administrators forge relationships
w/ school administrators
Students are encouraged to report bus incidents
Students are assured that their complaints will be
taken seriously and those who hurt or intimidate
them will be penalized
Studies have shown that students with a
disability, whether it is visible or non-visible,
are subject to increased bullying that is often
directed at the disability. These students are
also at more risk for bullying directed at factors
other than their disability.
Young, Ne'eman, and Gelser, Bullying and Students
With Disabilities, in White House Conference on
Bullying Prevention, (March 10, 2011), available at
http://www. stopbullying. gov/references/white_
house_ conference/index.html.
Staffing monitors on all special education buses
Video monitoring equipment on all sped buses
Comprehensive screening procedures to remove
risks that might be associated w/ student w/ a
disability being assigned to a particular bus
Protocols for report with notification to parents of
Weekly review by designated official of all
complaints received; specific response required
when know unreasonable risk of sexual
harassment on a special needs bus
Expediting investigation of all suspected acts of
sexual harassment involving students w/
Ensuring open lines of communication between
transportation officials and school-based personnel
“Bus rosters” w/ “bus transportation order”
outlining special transportation needs generated
w/ IEP process. Communicated to driver,
monitor, sub driver, sub monitor
Comprehensive annual training for all staff who
have at least one special needs student on a bus
Figure 1. Students Who Experienced Sexual Harassment during
the 2010–11 School Year, by Gender
Figure 11. Actions Students Took after Being Sexually Harassed,
by Gender
Figure 14. Student Suggestions for Reducing Sexual Harassment
at School, by Gender
Recognize – drivers and attendants must be alert to
behavior which is not just developmentally
appropriate horseplay; bullies can terrorize their
Respond – when you’re aware, doing nothing is never
the right thing. Intervene; say something!
Report – to meet the district’s obligation to investigate,
your staff must provide full & timely information as
required by policy. But, reporting is not an alternative
to response!
Reassure – show the victim that you get it, and will do
your part to avoid a repeat performance.
Foster compliance with
relevant policies
Explain expectations for
seating arrangements,
other preventive student
management techniques.
Review information issues.
 Communicate with
school administrators
about transportation
professionals’ need to
know student
information that will
impact the ride
Work as a team to avoid
“re-victimizing” the
 Never take the position
that students should
learn to cope with
 Typically, any negative
impact of change
should be on harasser,
not the victim (but
watch out for harasser
with special needs for
whom transportation is
a related service.)
Instruct drivers to report to their supervisors or
to a building administrator in accordance w/
What do policy and practice establish as the
applicable range of consequences? Who
administers them?
What back up plans are necessary (for example,
if an attendant is required, what if s/he’s
What information, direction do you provide to
Tell the student what s/he’s doing that s/he
must stop
Explain possible consequences
Recognize when telling and explaining isn’t
Handle similar situations similarly
Work with school administrators where
behavior on bus is only a microcosm of the
atmosphere in school
Even if BOE policy doesn’t make reporting by
all staff members mandatory, you should
Encourage prompt oral reports from your staff,
with written follow-up
While you should respect the discomfort on
religious or moral grounds that staff may have
with reporting what a student actually said or
did, reports must be factual and detailed.
Who knows about what?
Interaction with police
Is action against individual harassers sufficient
if district never addresses overall and
continuing harassment?
See, www.educationcompliancegroup.com,
Point of Law, for “Invincible Investigations”

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