Today’s Verdict: Coping With Schoolyard and Cyber Bullying


by David Lesch, Esq. 

Way back, when I was in school, there was always a bully.  It didn’t matter whether it was elementary school, junior high school, or high school.  I grew up in the public school system of Queens, and was told that if someone was bothering me, I should tell the teacher.  Of course, I never did which probably wasn’t very bright, but that’s how it was in the 1970’s and in the early 1980’s.  But times have changed, and so have the bullies.  

The bullies now come armed with cellphones, internet blogs, and comments made on social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, not to mention the dozen or so other sites.  And I don’t think emotional bullying is any worse than physical bullying.  Sometimes it can be devastating.  

I have had and continue to represent teenagers who have been bullied so badly by their peers that they have withdrawn from friends and family.  Their school work has suffered. And a few have even attempted suicide.  

The bullying usually comes from classmates.  

Sadly, despite being made of the issues, some teachers have yet take substantial action against bullying.  I have seen situations where the dean of a school has actually promised the victim and the victim’s mother that the bully would be reprimanded with detention or a transfer to another school, without either one occurring.  

And what of the emotional toll?  

Doesn’t a school administrator have a duty to provide psychological help for the victim?  The legal answer is yes.  And when that doesn’t happen, the school can be held liable for damages — which can be substantial.  

But it all starts with the doctrine of “notice”.  If the school does not “know” about the alleged bullying, it is difficult to hold them responsible.  Unless they “should have known” is established as a foundation for responsibility, i.e., because the perpetrator is a known bully.  

So how do you protect your child from being bullied by a peer?  That’s a tough question.  But what I can tell you is this: if the bullying is from a classmate, it is the duty of the school staff to quickly put it to an end and to get your child counseling, if needed.  Just make sure your child tells you about the bullying so you can make sure his or her school has a requisite “notice”.  Because once they are on notice, it’s a whole new ball game. And ball is in your court.

Todays Verdict_David LeschDavid Lesch is an attorney and host of ‘Today’s Verdict with David Lesch‘ on Bronxnet. Today”s Verdict airs Tuesday nights at 6:30pm, Cablevision channel 67, Fios channel 33. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email