Should Parents of Bullies be Held Accountable?
Lindsay RakersSeptember 07, 2012 11:44 AM
13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year.
Although bullying is not a new phenomenon, it is becoming a disturbing trend. More and more stories about bullying are coming forward and more lawsuits are being filed against school boards and school systems regarding the injuries and deaths of students.
The criminal prosecution, of six teens, and charges including civil rights violations and statutory rape charges, followed the suicide of Phoebe Prince. Stricter anti-bullying legislation was enacted in Massachusetts following her tragic death.
Bullying is never okay but what is sadder is when the bullying is done by a parent or a teacher. Sadly, these instances are becoming increasingly more popular as well. Case in point is the ongoing situation in Washington State. The parents of a teen want his teacher fired after the student was allegedly terrorized in a bullying attack by his peers, but also by the teacher. The incident involved a dozen or more students dragging the boy around the classroom by his arms and writing on his feet after stuffing his socks in his mouth. The teacher allegedly watched and at some points joined in by poking the child in the stomach and making rude remarks.
Bullying can affect anyone. We sometimes hold parents accountable for their child’s actions when people are injured – homeowner’s policies cover the child actions, car insurance policies cover the child’s actions and so on. But the question then becomes, why aren’t parents being held accountable for failing to properly parent their children?
Criminal and tort laws are governed by states; therefore you must look to your states legislation to determine the parents’ legal responsibilities regarding their child’s behavior.
According to Love Our Children USA, while state laws greatly vary, 47 states have some sort of parent liability law. In these states, the parents may be held responsible for negligent and/or intentional acts as well as for crimes committed by their children.
The question by many is, “Don’t I have to be neglectful or abusive to be responsible for my child’s irresponsibility?” The answer is no. Your responsibility, in the parent-child relationship, is the expectation that you hold some control over your child and are the first line of defense.
Some states place a cap on damages in civil suits against the parents, while some don’t. In some instances, cases have been brought against the parents of alleged bullies based on claims of intentional inflection of emotional distress under the homeowner’s insurance policies. Negligent supervision can also be another cause of action. However, parental responsibility may extend beyond monetary damages and into criminal liability depending on the extent of the bullying. In some states parents can be held responsible to pay juvenile court fees and even partake in community service themselves for acts their children have committed.
What Can Parents Do To Prevent Bullying?
Most importantly, parents must communicate with their kids and let them know they are there for them.
Telling children to fight back is NOT the answer. It’s condoning violent behavior. It’s also not a good idea to bring the victim and bully together in the same room. What parents should do is intervene and teach kids and bullies to change their behavior.
Bullying in any fashion is not okay. Watch the trailer to the documentary called “Bully” about the bullying epidemic in America. The film was rated “R”, which means it can’t be shown in schools. It just takes a second to sign the petition.
Lindsay Rakers, O'Fallon accident injury attorney, "a big voice for the little guy"