When Bullying Leads To Wrongful Death

In recent years, we have encountered a slew of stories about young people committing suicide after experiencing cruel, relentless bullying from their classmates. The victims and their stories are diverse: a 12-year old gymnast who was snubbed by her friends, an 11-year old boy who was tricked into thinking his girlfriend was dead, an 8-year old who was physically bullied until he passed out, a college student who was videotaped with his boyfriend. While each story is different, they are all unsettling reminders of the bullying epidemic in the United States.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. In some instances, bullying is verbal, and involves things like name-calling, teasing, or threats. Other times, it can progress to a physical level, and include behavior like hitting, kicking, pushing, or tripping. Bullying can also be social, which often involves rumors, social isolation, and public embarrassment. In recent years, bullying has made a shift from school hallways to computers and phone screens. Students use Facebook, text messages, and other forms of technology to “cyberbully” their peers, often by spreading rumors or unwanted images.

Unfortunately, bullying is common:

  • 30% of students in grades six through ten report moderate or frequent bullying
  • 43% of students fear harassment at school
  • 1 in 5 students admit to bullying others
  • 160,000 students miss school every day out of fear of bullying

For students in marginalized groups, the statistics are even worse:

  • 24.7% of African-American students, 17.2% of Hispanic students, and 9% of Asian students report instances of bullying
  • 1/3 of non-white students report bias-based bullying
  • 74.1% of LGBT+ students face verbal bullying, while 36.2% experience physical bullying
  • Children with disabilities are three times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers

The Impact

It’s easy to think that bullying is simply the result of kids being kids. But in reality, the implications of bullying are much more dangerous.

  • Students who are bullied by their peers are 2.2 times more likely to have suicide ideation, and 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 100,000 students carry a weapon to school every day in fear of bullies
  •  In 87% of school shootings, revenge against bullies plays a role

With so many kids hurting themselves and others, it’s clear that school bullying is a very real issue.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Seek Justice

To prevent bullying, some parents are trying to take a stand against the schools that enable this aggressive behavior. For example, the parents of the physically bullied 8-year old are suing their school district in Ohio. They believe the school’s negligence is the cause of their son’s wrongful death. While it may seem like the bully is the only one responsible for another child’s injuries or death, a school or other institution does have a standard of care to uphold. If they are aware that a student is being bullied, but do not take adequate steps to stop the issue, they are breaching that standard of care. It can be difficult to win a bullying wrongful death lawsuit against a school, but as more and more parents and guardians file suits against schools, it’s bringing attention to the role of schools in preventing bullying.

While these recent examples are uncomfortable, they’re critical reminders of the battle that still needs to be fought. Whether you’re a parent or guardian, student, or educator, consider what you can do to cut down on bullying among young people. You never know what kind of difference you might make.

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The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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