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Bullying and Your Child: Can the Law Protect Him?

Name calling. Incessant taunting. Online harassment and humiliation. Getting hit, kicked, and knocked down. Have any of these ever happened to your child? If so, he has been the victim of bullying.

Bullying is not only dangerous to a child's physical well-being, it can also potentially damage his mental and psychological health. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states that bullying can disrupt a child's ability to learn, and a school's ability to educate students in a safe environment.

In the past, bullying may have been viewed as just another example of childhood misbehavior. However, with extreme bullying cases making headlines in recent years -- some resulting in victims ending their lives -- the law is stepping in to crack down on this hurtful trend.

Recent Legislation
In the tragic wake of a student's recent suicide allegedly due to bullying, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bill that prohibits bullying in schools across the state.

Although the bill, passed in March 2010, does not criminalize bullying, it extends the definition of bullying to cyberbullying, and prohibits the use of emails, text messages, Internet postings, and other electronic means to target or harass a victim. This new bill requires school principals to report bullies to police if they believe a criminal act occurred. In addition, it requires principals to take disciplinary action, such as suspending or expelling the bully, and to notify both the victim's and the bully's parents in the event of an incident.

This is the most recent step taken by a state in an effort to curb this growing problem. Most states' laws require or encourage school officials or school boards to develop a policy that prohibits bullying, and for good reason. According to HRSA, bullying directly involves about 30 percent of students in any given semester, with elementary school students being the most frequent target.

However, many states don't define exactly what is considered bullying, and in the states that do, the definition can vary greatly. This can allow some cases of bullying to slip through the cracks. So what can you do?



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