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Our local high school is failing to uphold it's anti-bullying policy.

Sharon, MA |

My daughter filed a bullying complaint against a 'popular' girl in her school. The school has responded inadequately and my daughter has suffered backlash from students, faculty and staff including exclusion from a sports team. School faculty have reported being threatened by the bully girls parents.

What remedies are available to get the school to follow it's own handbook and behavior guidelines? We read about the tragic conseqences after the fact all the time. What can you do when you see it ahead of time?

Attorney Answers 3


It may be important to realize that the school is not required to sustain and act on every bullying report. The whole concept of the system allowing the filing of reports is that such reports will cause an inquiry by the school. But filing the report does not guarantee any specific finding, result, outcome, determination. And it will inevitably be true that in some cases, the outcome or result of the school's inquiry post-report will be wrong.

Where the school has made the required inquiry and determined that a report is not sustained, there is no legal right to force a different finding and outcome. There may be some legal recourse after the fact if there is an incident involving compensable damage or injury.

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I am very sorry your daughter was subjected to this type of behavior and apparently inadequate response by the school. Schools must develop and implement bullying polcies. Failure to do so will mean an audit by the state education agency now known as DESE.

There are a few things you can do, but more facts are needed before a strategy can be formulated. Seek the assistance of an attorney with expertise in education, children's rights and special education.

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If the school is refusing to act, then take it up with the girl's parents since she is a minor. You do not have to rely solely on the school. This is important enough where it would warrant consulting a local attorney. Your question makes it sound like the parents are part of the problem. In many jurisdictions, if the minor child's parents are aware of a propensity for a certain behavior, then they can be held liable for it. A legal letter from an attorney will be proof that they have been informed. You can ask your local attorney about the law in your jurisdiction. If the girl makes any kind of threat towards your child, get a temporary restraining order (that'd get the school's attention because they would have to keep them 100 ft apart in most jurisdictions). The TRO is just like the name suggests--temporary. You could get more of a backlash, or it could get everyone's attention to finally do something. You should also petition the school district to allow your daughter to change schools. Some of this advice may be deemed a little too over the top by some of my esteemed colleagues, but I do not believe any child should have to fear going to school.

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