Bully Part 1

The California legislature has enacted amendments to legislation effective July 1, 2012, that “would encourage the inclusion of policies and procedures aimed at the prevention of bullying in comprehensive school safety plans.” The definition of bullying is amended to include: “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, as defined, including but not limited to, sexual harassment, hate violence, or harassment, threats , or intimidation, that has the effect or can reasonably be predicted to have the effect of placing a reasonable pupil, as defined, in fear of harm to that pupil’s person or property, causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health, causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance, or causing a reasonable person to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.” Students will be able to move to another school or even to another school district.

The cases usually begin in the school system with suspensions pending expulsion. Sometimes the suspended student is the alleged bullier or is the victim of bullying who has retaliated against those perceived to be responsible for the bullying. Boys and girls are involved in both groups. A student can be suspended pending expulsion for fighting where someone sustains a concussion or an injury requiring medical attention, for threats to cause serious harm or death made over the internet, by text or in person, and for displaying a knife or other potential deadly weapon. Usually the bullier is a person(s) who does the bullying by text or on the internet and/or by text or word of mouth to friends of the student being bullied. The normal response of the bullier(s) is that we are just kidding, only fooling around, and no harm was meant.

We receive calls from parents wanting to know what they can do because the school will not stop their kid from being bullied. The new legislation enacted may help with these types of complaints from parents by requiring the schools to take these complaints seriously and take strong action to make sure the bullying does not continue. Recently a student threatened to kill staff and students. A .22 rifle with ammunition was in the home. This student had been unquestionably bullied over a two year period at school. The first year the parents took him out of public school and enrolled him in another school where bullying either did not take place or it was policed a lot more effectively. The parents returned their son to the previous school the next year thinking he was bigger, more accommodating and would not be mercifully teased any longer. Only a few days after school began, another student called him a “faggot.” in front of his mother. The mother was outraged. She immediately marched into the school to talk with the assistant principal and demanded something be done to the bully student. That bullier was asked to make an apology to the student Although the bullier did not overtly continue the harassment, his friends shunned the student and quietly continued the verbal harassment. Later in the year when an incident took place amongst his small group of friends, they also turned on him and wrote very hateful words which the student read. He was excluded from their group at lunch and was eating alone. He wanted to bring a gun to school and shoot the offending students and anyone who got in his way. He was so disturbed by his thoughts that he voluntarily wrote a third person accounting of how he had been bullied and put it into the “Bully Box” at school knowing it would get some attention. The school counselor who was aware of the prior bullying saw the student eating lunch alone, but did not make any inquiry as to why. His self-telling resulted in his being removed from the school, his home searched by police and the .22 rifle being confiscated. He was arrested, put in Juvenile Hall, and was prosecuted for felony conduct of making a terrorist threat. Fortunately, he did not cause serious harm to himself or to others.

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