Understanding Bullying and How to Stop it

PA and NJ attorney provides a guide to bullying and advice on when to intervene

At The Pagano Law Firm, LLC, we are dedicated to securing justice for young people being harassed by their peers and have prepared this guide to bullying in PA and NJ so that they and their parents have the information they need. Attorney Marlo Pagano-Kelleher is an experienced advocate who is willing to represent clients in legal proceedings against school districts and individuals responsible for the harm inflicted on victims. Whether your son or daughter is facing physical abuse, verbal threats or shunning through social media, The Pagano Law Firm will battle to collect appropriate compensation and prevent future mistreatment.  

How to help a child being bullied

Being a good listener is paramount if your child is being bullied. Keep the attention on your child by avoiding the urge to talk about how something similar happened to you. Focus on alleviating the problem rather than getting revenge on the bully or their parents. Support your son or daughter and tell them that there are laws and professionals dedicated to helping families like yours.

Pennsylvania laws on bullying

The Office for Safe Schools with Pennsylvania’s Department of Education is charged with helping schools throughout the state create healthy learning environments. Bullying is defined as an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act directed at one or more fellow students in a school setting, which can include activities that students engage in off school property. Under the statute, bullying involves one or more of the following elements:

  • Substantial interference with a student’s education
  • Creation of a threatening environment
  • Substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school

To qualify as bullying under Pennsylvania law, the actions must be severe, persistent or pervasive. 

New Jersey laws on bullying

Anti-bullying groups rank New Jersey highly for the laws it has in place to protect students. Numerous distinct statutes are included within the state’s overall efforts to stop Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB). Each school district must have an anti-HIB policy in place and make public reports addressing violations that occur. Teachers and school staff members are required to complete training on how to deal with bullying behavior. In addition to a general prohibition on HIB, there are specific references to mistreatment based on a range of personal characteristics, such as race, religion and disability status, as well as guidelines discussing the needs of transgender students.    

Common questions about bullying

What is considered bullying?

The legal definition of bullying differs slightly among states. For example, in Pennsylvania, threatening or disruptive actions must be severe, persistent or pervasive to qualify as bullying. New Jersey, on the other hand, considers a single incident to violate the state’s HIB law if the other elements are present. 

What should I do if my child is being bullied?

If you’re unsure about what to do if your child gets bullied, there are numerous resources available to you. The websites of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Education have pages dedicated to this subject, and you can also check with general anti-bullying websites. From the first incident, you should keep detailed records about what occurred and contact the school about what responsive and preventative measures will be taken. 

How can I help my child cope with bullying?

Each child is unique, so determining the best way for them to cope with bullying might take some time and effort. Developing effective responses to common situations could strengthen your child’s resilience. Another option is to encourage your son or daughter to engage in an extracurricular activity that helps build their confidence and offers the opportunity to build new friendships. 

Is it necessary to involve the school in cases of bullying?

Your son or daughter’s school has a legal duty to stop harassment, intimidation and bullying among their students, so you should notify the principal or another employee designated to handle these matters. At this point, the school district’s policy should direct what steps need to be taken in order to investigate the issue and avert further problems. 

What legal actions can be taken against bullying?

By initiating legal action, you might be able to gain a measure of relief while preventing additional mistreatment aimed at your child and others. Schools and other institutions might be legally liable if they failed to provide protection for your son and daughter. There could also be a cause of action against the bully and their parents. A qualified anti-bullying lawyer can outline what compensation is possible for the suffering your child has experienced.

How can I talk to my child about bullying?

Many victims of bullying feel like they’re all alone or that they have something to be ashamed of. No matter what circumstances prompted the conversation, you should praise your son or daughter for coming forward to talk about the problem. Emphasize that they are not alone and that there are professionals who can help them find a workable solution. 

What is cyberbullying, and how can it be prevented?

Various types of online harassment can qualify as cyberbullying. Sometimes, the misconduct involves repeated offensive communications sent directly to the victim. In other cases, cyberbullying is characterized by cruel comments about someone to third parties on a digital platform. It can be very difficult to cut off cyberbullying, but a good first step is to bring the behavior out into the open by reporting the bullies to the school as well as the websites used by the harassers. 

What are the school's responsibilities in preventing bullying?

Schools have numerous responsibilities when it comes to preventing bullying among their students, even if the behavior does not occur on school grounds. Once you learn that your child has been targeted, consulting with an anti-bullying attorney can help you determine if the school has the necessary policies in place and if they are being enforced. 

How can bystanders help prevent or stop bullying?

Young people who engage in bullying behavior are often trying to impress or amuse people around them. Bystanders can become upstanders by making it clear that the bully’s behavior is not acceptable and that they will report the misconduct to school authorities. 

Are there support groups or resources available for bullying victims?

Yes. There are numerous support groups, websites and hotlines to assist young people who have been bullied. Your school should have information on resources that can help your son or daughter address what happened in a healthy manner and develop strategies that help them going forward. 

Speak with an effective lawyer about your Pennsylvania or New Jersey bullying issue  

The Pagano Law Firm, LLC seeks to advise Pennsylvania and New Jersey clients on the legal relief available to youths who have been bullied at school or somewhere else. For a free, no charge consultation regarding your particular situation at our Radnor office, please call 484-318-2561 or contact us online.