Although bullying is a widespread occurrence that can be harmful to any child, it is especially troubling for children with special needs. Thankfully, today there are many protections in place to educate school personnel and provide added protections for students.
In New Jersey, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act creates a standard and protection for children in our schools. Schools are expected and prepared to recognize and report bullying, while providing a positive environment for students. New Jersey created this anti-bullying law, which was one of the first of its kind. It is also considered one of the strongest such laws, spreading to off-premise and online incidents of bullying. This is especially important since bullying is often not limited to in school encounters.
In addition to New Jersey’s laws, there are Federal laws in place to provide added protection for children with special needs. Parents should be familiar with these laws to ensure that your child’s school is providing all the legally required protections in place.
The IDEA, Section 504, and Title II all protect children with special needs in regards to bullying. Schools have a responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. Disability harassment may be considered a denial of FAPE, under the statutes. As such, parents are able to initiate due process procedures, or file complaints, alleging a denial of FAPE, in the event of disability harassment.
In the event of school bullying of a special needs child, parents should immediately make the school personnel aware of the situation. Request a meeting, prepare your information, and request a 504 plan or IEP be prepared or amended to address the occurring issues. The school can address issues of bullying through modifications of the child’s 504 or IEP plan.
Here is more history about national bullying prevention month from Pacer.org:
National Bullying Prevention Month is a campaign in the United States founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention. Initially held the first week in October, the event was expanded in 2010 to the entire month.