Bullying - Who Is Responsible?

There has been many cases of bullying in the news which have resulted in the victim going to the extreme of taking their lives just to simply escape the situation that they have been put in. While it is easy to blame the person who is doing the actual bullying, there are others who also may be to blame. Unfortunately, school systems may be guilty negligent supervision, or failing to provide the proper level of supervision to keep this act from happening. If guilty of negligent supervision, the system can be held just as liable as the one who is performing the actual act. If your child, or someone that you know has been a victim of bullying, this is information that you may want to know.

What Is Negligent Supervision?

Negligent supervision occurs when adults who have the responsibility of providing monitoring and care for children fail to do so. To be negligent they must know that the child needs to be controlled or protected, and they must have failed to carry out this task. 

The role of supervision is most commonly charged to parents, but any adult who has legally been entrusted with the supervision of a child can be negligent. This includes:

  • Any legal guardians
  • Other guardians, such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents
  • Employees of your school system
  • Other community group leaders such as youth group, or scout leaders

Negligence most often comes into play when the adult charged with the supervision knows that there is a danger or threat to a child, and they fail to act to eliminate the danger.

How Does Negligent Supervision Relate To Bullying?

As people are becoming more aware of bullying, parents are holding the school systems to a much higher standard. With the responsibility of supervision the children all day, the school have a responsibility to keep the children under their charge safe. This not only means from the hazards that may be present within the school, but it means from the other students as well.

Too many times in cases of bullying, there are adults who are aware that these actions are happening. If they refuse, or fail to do anything about it, they can be just as liable as the person who is actually doing the bullying.

What Is The School's Responsibility When It Comes To Bullying?

Schools play a very important role when it comes to stopping bullying, because usually much of the contact between the children takes place during the day on school grounds. While many things can easily take place under the nose of teachers and administrators alike, an increase in supervision will often allow those in charge to know that something is taking place.

Failure to increase supervision when, and where it is necessary makes the school guilty of negligent supervision. This will put the system at risk of a lawsuit should anything happen. Substantial awards are already being won in this area.

For example: In the case of S.B., by and through her Natural Parent and Guardian, Beverly Cox, v. Duval County School Board, a sixth grader in Florida was awarded $100,000, after being attacked by a classmate who had a reputation for bullying. While this is substantial, there have been other cases throughout the country that have cost school systems much higher amounts of money.

Ways Schools Can Help To Eliminate Bullying

While supervision is important, there are other ways that the school can help to combat bullying as well.

  • School systems should all adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying, and ensure that it is strongly enforced. 
  • The school's policies should be clearly communicated not only to the students, but to the parents, and guardians as well. This should be done in writing, as well as through school assemblies, and classroom discussions.
  • Students should get more information and a clear understanding of which behaviors will, and will not, be tolerated on school property. 
  • School systems should work closely with the parents of troubled children to ensure that the necessary resources are in place to deal with any issues the child may have.
  • Curriculum needs to be developed and taught to explore things such as conflict resolution, tolerance of differences, peer pressure, and other social issues that children have to deal with. This curriculum needs to be in place from kindergarten through 12th grade. Not only are these skills that will help the children work through issues of bullying, but they are life skills that will help the students throughout their lives. 

Unfortunately, even if all of these things are carried out, bullying can still take place. If your child has been injured as a result of bullying, or other assault that has taken place on school property, one of the first things that you want to do after seeking medical attention, is to contact a personal injury attorney. They will not only review your case, but they will help you discern who is liable for your child's injuries, and let you know whether or not you have a case.