Most schools have adopted a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. This is because all schools who receive funding from the government cannot tolerate discrimination and still receive funding. This is due to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, it is a violation of Connecticut law to discriminate against children. You can’t discriminate based on gender expression or identity. Aggression or criminal acts based on discrimination result in criminal violations. This happens under Public Act number 11-55.
Connecticut’s Public Act number 11-232 extends the parameters of the term “bullying” to include cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a recent trend that occurs when a student is harassed or discriminated against via the internet or other electronic devices. Cyberbullying does not have to occur during school hours, but still constitutes a school issue if it is related to school property. For example, the school could get involved if bullying occurred on a school issued laptop, even if it happened during non-school hours.
All teachers and school administrators work as mandated reporters. This means that if they view any type of harassment or bullying, they must report the incident. In addition, many programs started in schools to teach both school administrators and students about the consequences of bullying. They want students to see this issue as a real threat. They hope students will stop bullying others and exercise their issues in healthier ways.
With the rise of the internet, a new form of bullying has emerged. Harassment over the internet has become a problem in schools and among youth. This is because it is now possible to contact someone virtually and communicate through a computer, a phone, or a similar device. The state of Connecticut has adopted laws to protect people from this type of harassment. You can learn more about cyberbullying laws here.
What is Cyberbullying?
In the state of Connecticut, it is against the law to threaten or harass someone online. This act is referred to as cyberbullying. In recent years, Connecticut as well as other states have cracked down on this act.
This form of bullying is most commonly committed by teenagers. For this reason, Connecticut now requires each school to install a school safety plan to educate students on bullying and cyberbullying. Also, the hope is that these programs will prevent these bullying issues.
Cyberbullying is considered a misdemeanor crime. As such, punishments include:
- A fine of as much as $500.
- A jail sentence of as much as three months.
- School Policies
Connecticut laws prohibit bullying in schools. The idea behind these anti-bullying laws is that every teenager has the right to learn in a school setting that is free of teasing, exclusion, humiliation, and violence.
Bullying is when one student, or a group of students, uses their power to hurt or reject another student or group. Bullying can take many forms. It can be done by physical acts (hitting, kicking, pushing), by spoken word (name calling, threatening, taunting), or in writing (spreading harmful rumors or gossip). Bullying can be done through exclusion from the group or an activity, by damage to a student’s belongings or property, or through an obscene gesture.
Cyberbullying is a specific form of bullying where a hurtful message or harmful material is communicated by text message, email, or online posting using a cell phone or the internet.
Regardless of how it is accomplished, bullying can have extremely harmful effects on the victim. Some teens have been driven to mental health breakdowns and suicide as a result of bullying.
Connecticut Law and School Policies
Connecticut law requires school systems to have policies to combat and prevent bullying. These school policies make procedures for:
(A) Students who have been bullied to make reports to school officials;
(B) Students who witness other students being bullied can make anonymous reports to avoid retaliation against them;
(C) Teachers, coaches, and other school staff who either directly see acts of bullying or who receive information about students being bullied must report the incidents to school administrators; and
(D) School administrators who receive reports of bullying from students, parents, teachers or other school staff, must fully investigate the report, and they must respond appropriately to prevent continued bullying incidents.
If you are the parent of a teenager who is bullied, you and your teen have legal rights. You have the right to report the incident to the school, and to be involved in any action taken by school officials in response to your report. School administrators must take your reports seriously, and they must permit you to speak on your teenager’s behalf. If you feel that school officials are ignoring or unfairly dismissing your complaint, you should seek legal representation to make sure that your rights under Connecticut’s anti-bullying laws are enforced.
If you are the parent of a teenager who has been accused of bullying, your teenager faces both school discipline and prosecution in the juvenile or criminal courts. Common school sanctions can include mandatory counseling, loss of extracurricular activities, detention, suspension, and in the most-severe cases, expulsion.
If your teenager is prosecuted in juvenile court, they are likely to face restrictions which could include participation in mandatory counseling, juvenile probation with close monitoring on a weekly basis, and in cases of violent acts, possible removal and detention in a juvenile facility.
If your teenager is prosecuted in adult criminal court, they could face felony or misdemeanor charges, including different degrees of assault, and hate crimes. They could be exposed to suspended jail sentences with restrictive probation conditions, actual jail time, and expensive court fines. Only the most serious of bullying incidents would be prosecuted in adult court.
Prosecutors in adult criminal court do aggressively pursue cyberbullying criminal charges. Cyberbullying is a Class C Misdemeanor, which can expose your teen to up to three months in jail and up to a $500 fine per offense. Each text message, email, or online posting could be considered a separate instance of crime under Connecticut’s cyberbullying law.