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Teen Bullying: Holding People Accountable through Personal Injury Lawsuits

Teen bullying is seemingly being discussed everywhere–the news, social media, community centers and back yards. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 in 4 middle school students reports having been a victim of bullying. What is not being discussed is how to hold the bullies truly accountable. Teen bullying is done to teens by teens, and therefore can be very difficult to address with traditional legal means.

     Take for example; the video of the school bus beating that went viral earlier this year. The graphic images of three fifteen-year-old boys savagely beating a thirteen-year-old boy are hard to forget. The identities of the perpetrators of the assault were clear and proven by the video. The extent of the victim’s injuries was not in debate. Yet the bullies were sentenced to indefinite supervised probation and community service.

Why? Because the bullies were young and were not charged as adults. In so many cases, bullies receive punishments that do not seem to mirror the crime they committed. This is because the criminal justice system does not treat juveniles the same as adults. But where criminal courts fail to hold bullies fully accountable and deter future bullying, civil courts can step in to accomplish the task.

     Recovery for mental, emotional and physical injuries due to bullying can be based on a breach of the duty of care owed by a teacher and/or school administrator to provide a safe learning environment for the child who was bullied. Recovery of damages can also be based on the theory that teachers and administrators knew or should have known that the child was being bullied, but they failed to act to protect the child and discipline the bullies. Both of these types of claims–breach of duty of care and knew or should have known–allege negligence on the part of the person or people entrusted with the care of the bullied child. Compensatory damages for pain and suffering and money for medical expenses can be recovered. Unfortunately, as we have seen on the news lately, bullying can be so devastating to its target, that the child ultimately takes his/her own life. In such cases, grieving parents may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

     As bullying has become a disturbing trend nationwide, states have enacted new anti-bullying laws holding parents responsible for their children’s bullying. In 47 states, parents may be held liable for negligent or intentional acts as well as for criminal acts of their children. The idea behind these laws is that parents of minors who engage in bullying should be held accountable if they fail to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection and control over their children. Colorado does not have a specific anti-bullying law, but the state legislature enacted an anti-bullying “Legislative Declaration” which can be implemented like a law.

     If your child is being bullied, fight back the right way. See your Denver personal injury lawyer at Levine Law to learn more about your legal options.

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