Protecting the Rights of Bullying Victims

Bullying is becoming a high profile concern for children and their parents. Recently, my Rhode Island personal injury firm looked into a case in which taunting and physical threats in school led to a 15-year-old’s suicide, as reported by Time Magazine.

Following her family’s move from Ireland in 2010, Phoebe Prince became a freshman at South Hadley High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. As ‘the new girl’ she was seen as an easy target to upperclassmen, who abused her in the school library, the hallways, and the lunchroom. The bullying continued after school with threatening text messages. CBS News reported an investigation that revealed that some teachers, administrators, and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did nothing to stop it.

Shortly after Prince’s death, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a law protecting students from repeated uses of written, verbal, or physical acts that “cause[] physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property, or places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property….” M.G.L. ch.71A §37O. The law requires schools to provide an action plan with procedures for “restoring a sense of safety for a victim and assessing that victim’s needs for protection” including “promptly notifying the parents or guardians of a victim and a perpetrator” consistent with state and federal law M.G.L. ch.71A §37O.

Bullying of a child without corrective action can lead to the feelings of neglect and hopelessness. By law Massachusetts schools are now accountable for failing to take proper actions in cases of student bullying. An experienced Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer may be able to ensure justice for those children and their families when a school fails to protect student victims of bullying.