Bullying, both mental and physical, can create an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for a student. While there are avenues for recourse against the students who participate in bullying, the school board also has responsibilities to prevent the situation. At DSF, we have handled many cases of bullying in schools to gain justice for individual victims and to bring attention to areas where a school is lacking security for students. We will fight for your child’s rights and work to prevent future incidents from occurring.
There are two main approaches to seeing how a school is responsible for bullying:
School has Not Provided a Safe Environment or Adequate Punishment for a Bully: In the first, a school is responsible for providing a safe environment and, if bullying takes place, the school should take appropriate actions to punish the student(s) participating in the bullying and the principal must advise both sets of parents about what happened and what steps the school is taking to prevent it from happening again. If a school fails to provide a secure environment, does not punish the offender or does not take action to ensure the bullying does not happen again, the school could be found negligent in their duties to students.
School has Not Provided Adequate Accommodations: The second approach is that the environment in the school has impaired the victim student’s ability to learn and benefit from the school’s programs. A student can develop special needs as a result of bullying. Schools must accommodate mental health issues. This can involve changing the child’s school, or placement in the school, putting special resources into the school or classroom, or giving the student special privileges or protections.
School Brings Unnecessary Attention to Student: Additionally, a school may be even more directly responsible for bullying when unfair or inadequate policies draw unnecessary attention to one or more students. For example, if a school has a special reduced-price lunch program for students, students participating in the program should not be singled out by the school.
This can come in the form of forcing the students to wait in a separate lunch line, serving them an obviously different lunch than other children or anything else that would call unnecessary attention to the students and opening them up to being or feeling ridiculed.
Similarly, if a student has special physical or mental needs, they should be provided those resources in a discreet and comfortable a manner. Sometimes this means moving a child to another classroom or school where they will not be the only child who requires this accommodation.
While a school can be reprimanded for bringing unnecessary attention to a student, the best approach is to foster an environment where students do not bully one another for any reason. The Ontario Education Act has specific provisions that apply to publicly funded schools to address bullying and it requires publically funded schools to take a strong stance against bullying. These include implementing strict discipline measures against bullies, creating an environment where there is no tolerance of bullying and creating a school culture where bullying behaviour is rejected by all members of the school community.
If your child has faced bullying for any reason, the DSF education lawyers can help you get the justice and education that your child deserves. For all questions and concerns, reach out to our professional team at (416) 449-1400.
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B.A. (HONS.), LL.B., LL.M., C.S.