Cyberbullying and school bullying – know your rights

Posted
by John Chapman

Bullying Online

Cyberbullying refers to bullying via the Internet to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. As cyberbullying has become more common in society, particularly among young people, new laws have been enacted to combat it. Sometimes bullying is so excessive that victims or their families must consider a lawsuit.

In 2012 alone, cyberbullying lawsuits led to verdicts with awards totaling $87 million, according to a 2012 GenRe Research report, “Insurance Issues April 2012.” The $87 million resulted from a mere 36 lawsuits related to cyberbullying or “electronic aggression.”

In 2011, Pew Research Center conducted an extensive nationwide study that found cyberbullying is extremely prevalent among teens. The study found that 88 percent of teens using social media had witnessed someone bullying another person online, and 12 percent of those teens said the online bullying was frequent (“Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, Nov. 9, 2011).

Bullying at School

Unfortunately, bullying often takes place at school. It is estimated that 160,000 kids nationwide stay home from school every day due to fear of being bullied. Schools have a responsibility to address the issue of bullying and educate students about behaviors indicative of severe bullying, disparagement, discrimination and bigotry. Sometimes schools are aware of a prolonged or extreme case of excessive bullying and yet fail to take any appropriate actions to stop the bullying or protect the victim.

A New Jersey school district and their insurance company settled with Sawyer Rosenstein and his family for $4.2 million following a lawsuit that was launched after Sawyer became paralyzed from being punched in the abdomen by a fellow student. Three months before the punching incident, Sawyer had reported to school officials that he was being bullied and wanted it to stop and wanted his complaint to be on record. The lawsuit alleged that the school district was not in compliance with the New Jersey anti-bullying laws and should have taken steps to prevent the incident.

Not Just Kids Stuff

We often think of the word “bullying” in the context of children and teens, but adults are often victims of similar physical, verbal and mental abuse. Bullying in the workplace is a particularly common problem. Sometimes workplace supervisors are aware of bullying yet fail to take appropriate actions to address the situation.

Adults are also victims of cyberbullying. For example, Chris Armstrong, an openly gay former University of Michigan student body president, was awarded a $4.5 million settlement against former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, who posted a series of attacks against Armstrong on his anti-gay blog.

Free Legal Consultation

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of extreme bullying, you and your family deserve answers to your questions. Contact the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free consultation so we can help you determine the best way to protect your legal rights and interests. You can reach us by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free case evaluation form located on this page.