Can I Be Sued If My Child Is a Bully to Other Kids?
Bullying and cyberbullying are sadly familiar, especially in the school environment among children and teenagers. If you are a parent and your child has been accused of bullying a fellow student, it is essential to take these claims seriously. While many parents shrug bullying off as “kids just being kids,” the truth is that bullying can have serious consequences for all involved parties. Talking to your son or daughter and making it clear that bullying is not okay could potentially protect your family from a lawsuit.
About Bullying Lawsuits
The first thing that is important to understand about bullying lawsuits is that there is no universal anti-bullying law. Bullying is not technically “illegal,” which can make it difficult for parents to bring successful lawsuits in cases where their children were bullied. With that point made, though, almost every state in the country has adopted some form of anti-bullying laws. These laws can be evoked and cited if a parent decides to pursue a lawsuit related to the bullying of their child.
Bullying lawsuits are most common in situations of extreme tragedy. The prevailing narrative in that type of case is that a bullying victim decides to take his or her own life. Parents in these situations bring lawsuits alleging that bullying or cyberbullying pushed their child into committing suicide. In general, cases where bullying can be argued to have led to the physical harm of the victim (rather than just mental or emotional harm), are more likely to be successful lawsuits. In addition to suicide cases, hazing or bullying that involves or leads to physical or sexual assault are also examples of bullying with a physical harm component.
Bullying Lawsuits Against School Districts
In some cases, parents of bullying victims may opt to file suit against the schools or school districts where their children are/were students. There can be an argument that the school was negligent and failed to intervene to stop the bullying. School districts do have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for all students, which means that failure to do so can justify a lawsuit. However, since most schools are public/government entities, they enjoy some protection against lawsuits under sovereign immunity. This immunity is not absolute, and school districts can be and have been found legally responsible for the fallout of bullying cases in the past. Still, this path is not easy or straightforward for parents seeking legal action for bullying against their children.
Bullying Lawsuits Against Parents
Parents of bullying victims will also sometimes bring lawsuits against other parents. So, if your child has been bullying classmates, you are technically vulnerable to a lawsuit. If your child’s bullying leads to the death, injury, or physical harm of a classmate, you could be held liable for failing to intervene. In particular, if a teacher or another parent informs you of your child’s bullying behavior, and you do nothing to correct the practice, the liability case against you will be quite substantial.
To make a long story short, yes, you can be sued if your child is bullying other people. For this reason, parents should be vigilant about teaching their kids that bullying is not okay and that respecting classmates—or even just random people online—is critical.
If you do find yourself on the receiving end of a bullying-related lawsuit, though, make sure to hire a lawyer with experience handling these types of cases. At Corradino and Papa, LLC, we are very knowledgeable about anti-bullying laws in New Jersey and can provide you with reliable legal advice and representation based on your case. Contact us today to get started.