Bullying has become a controversial and sensitive issue in Connecticut classrooms and courtrooms. The juvenile law attorneys at Mark Sherman Law are following Connecticut bullying laws and cases closely. We are keeping pace with the recent state laws, court decisions, criminal cases and school disciplinary actions that have attempted to address and redress bullying in Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Weston and Wilton public and private schools. It is an area of law that is constantly evolving. If you or your child have been accused of bullying, or have been a victim or target of bullying, then the Connecticut bullying lawyers at Mark Sherman Law can help you.What is Bullying?
Bullying comes in many forms. It can be physical, verbal, sexual or psychological harassment or intimidation. The most common examples include:
- Physical abuse and harassment;
- Name-calling and verbal abuse;
- Group intimidation;
- Cyber-bullying / social media harassment (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram);
- Hazing and initiation rituals;
- School pranks; and
- Sexual intimidation and humiliation.
Most public and private schools in Fairfield County have recently established bullying prevention and response teams to assist and mediate bullying cases within the schools. While these efforts are well-intentioned, we often get calls from parents who believe their school system has not treated them fairly. Often schools will single out one student, question and interrogate them without a parent present, and punish this student without a fair and unbiased investigation into the bullying allegations.
On the other side of this scenario, a bullying target or victim will sometimes feel their voice is not being heard due to a particular school’s inclination to protect a student who is a star student or athlete, or a child of a generous donor to the school. Whether your child is a bullying victim or accused of being a bully, it is sometimes necessary to consult a top Connecticut bullying lawyer and attorney who is experienced in protecting your child’s interests and reputation. Your attorney can aggressively lean on school administrators and officials to escalate these issues and treat your child fairly.Recent Cyber-bullying Trends
Many people have asked our lawyers why bullying has become such a hot topic? The truth is that teenagers have always exhibited bullying behavior, but the 24-7 lightning speed of communications through technology, cell phones, and the internet has exacerbated the problem. It essentially enables bullies to not relent in their efforts, allowing them to torture their targets around the clock and with a much wider audience than a school hallway or school bus. Kids no longer go home after school and leave each other alone. In fact, it is when the students leave school that most opportunities for bullying, especially cyber-bullying, arise. Photographs, postings and name-calling can spread quickly through social media websites and applications like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
Connecticut middle and high school officials wrestle with the issue of exactly how much control and regulation they can have over their students’ social media postings and websites. While they do not want to infringe on their First Amendment rights and creativity, they realize that out-of-school social media cyberbullying directly affects the safety and welfare of their students whom they are charged with protecting. The recent and suspicious suicide of Bart Palosz, the 15-year-old Greenwich high school student, was linked to possible bullying. So with the dangers of consequences of bullying reaching new levels, Connecticut high schools and middle schools are trying their best, but are not applying uniform and standard procedures in their investigation, enforcement, and penalties. That’s why seeking the intervention of a top Connecticut bullying attorney is always a good idea.If Your Child Is Being Bullied in Connecticut
If your child is a target of bullying, then you, as the parent, are often the child’s best and only advocate. You have rights that need to be aggressively pursued, such as demanding a meeting with school officials, and requesting an investigation and mediation between all parties and their parents. You have the right to request that school bus video and school grounds video be preserved and reviewed in connection with the bullying accusations. You have the right for your child to attend school in a violence-free and bully-free environment. While schools often try to accommodate parents and all of these rights, we often get calls from parents who feel that either their voices and requests are not being acted upon aggressively enough, or that the parents of the suspected bully are facilitating or encouraging the offensive conduct. In most of these circumstances, it is a good idea to call one of the bullying lawyers at Mark Sherman Law. We can help you put pressure on the school to take all necessary measures to protect your child from further bullying and retaliation, including thoroughly and appropriately investigating the bullying allegations.If Your Child Is Accused of Bullying
It is always a school’s intention to attempt to mediate and resolve bullying accusations without court or police intervention. During this initial investigative phase, school administrators and social workers will often attempt to interview your child to identify the bully, the bullying target or victim, and the nature of the underlying conduct. If the charges and accusations are serious, then we believe a parent should be present during any questioning, which sometimes feels like an interrogation. Further, if the school’s School Resource Officer (SRO)—usually a uniformed member of the town’s police department—is present during the interview, then make no mistake—this is a police-sponsored interrogation and anything your child says can and will be used against them.
As soon as you are informed that your child is being questioned for suspected bullying, you should assess whether the allegations are serious enough to necessitate a call to a Connecticut bullying lawyer or attorney. One method for making this assessment is to review the school’s code of conduct manual and see whether the accusations, if true, would require school discipline such as suspension or expulsion. It would be very detrimental to your child’s future if they were to provide statements to school investigators that would be used against them in a formal disciplinary proceeding. Your child is almost always entitled to an attorney or parent present, and you should let your child know that if they are ever uncomfortable at school, then they should ask to speak with their parents.Protecting Your Child’s Reputation & School Record
A consequence of being an accused bully are the repercussions it may have on your child’s permanent school record. The bullying attorneys at Mark Sherman Law are often asked to intervene on behalf of an accused bully during a school’s disciplinary process in order to negotiate a resolution that has little or no effect on the child’s permanent record. Getting into college is tough enough—to have to check the “Yes” box when asked if your child has ever been subject to discipline can significantly set your child back behind his competition in the college selection process. Accordingly, if your child is going through a disciplinary process in his or her private school or public school, give us a call today to discuss if and how we help.Can Criminal Charges Be Filed in a Bullying Investigation?
Another common question our firm gets from clients is whether a bullying episode can escalate to criminal charges. The answer is yes. In fact, Stamford police recently charged a 12-year-old girl with misdemeanor charges arising from bullying allegations. The charges can range from misdemeanor or felony Assault under C.G.S. § 53a-61 or C.G.S. 53a-60, Disorderly Conduct under C.G.S. § 53a-223, or Breach of Peace under C.G.S. § 53a-181. While criminal charges are usually the last resort for a school system and police department, the trend is for law enforcement to be as aggressive and careful as possible. Therefore if you or you child are facing criminal Connecticut charges arising from a bullying incident, you should contact an attorney at Mark Sherman Law for a consultation.Contact A Connecticut Bullying Lawyer Right Away
If your child is involved in a bullying incident in Stamford, Westport, Fairfield, Greenwich, Darien, Norwalk, New Canaan, or anywhere else in Connecticut—whether as the suspected bully or the bullying target or victim—call an attorney at Mark Sherman Law to learn how we can help you. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (203) 358-4700.Related Links: