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Bullying and Special Needs Students: What to Know and What to Do

It's an unfortunate fact of life that your child could encounter bullies at school, including those who bully your child specifically because he or she has special needs. This is not a situation you can take lightly because the bullying could inhibit your child's progress in school.

Dealing with school administrators and other parents can be intimidating. However, if you know what to do and where to go for help, it is possible to improve the situation substantially. It is also worth noting that education attorneys are almost always more than happy to help you monitor situations like these, even if they prove to be relatively straightforward. It never hurts to have a strong professional advocate in your child's corner. 

State and Federal Prohibition

In both California and federal law, bullying someone because of special needs status is considered a form of discrimination and harassment. California considers schools to have "notice of harassment if a responsible employee, such as a teacher or administrator, knew about the harassing conduct or would have known about the conduct if they were acting reasonably." In other words, if a teacher, administrator or another employee of the school either witnessed the bullying, or would have witnessed the bullying if they were doing their job, then California would consider the school as already knowing about the bullying, and therefore being obligated to stop it.

However, bullying can take place away from even the best teacher's ears and eyes. If you receive word that your child is experiencing bullying due to special needs, contact the school to ensure they know. Don't ignore this, and don't tell your child to ignore it. That only tells the child that there is something wrong with feeling hurt by the bullying, and it lets the bully continue to harass your child.

Details Needed

Once you hear about bullying, get details. You need to know exactly what was going on and who was around when this happened. The school administrators need to know these details to further investigate and take appropriate action. Knowing the details yourself will also help you should you need to seek outside assistance.

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