Bullying is a pervasive problem in schools across the country, and sadly students with disabilities or special needs are not immune to the issue. In fact, studies suggest that students with disabilities are at an increased risk of being bullied, while some are bullies themselves.
As a parent, it can be very difficult to know what to do when your child is not just dealing with disabilities but also bullying. But there are steps you can take to help.
If someone is bullying your child
If someone is threatening, mocking or otherwise harassing your child, you should address the situation with the school right away. Talk to your child's teacher and/or the school. Make sure they know about the bullying and take action, including notifying the other student's parents and administering discipline, if appropriate.
In some cases, administrators and teachers may also decide to adjust an Individualized Education Program to add protections against bullying.
Keep records on when the bullying occurs and how the school does or does not respond. This information can be crucial if inaction or a serious incident leads to a legal claim.
If your child is bullying others
Any child accused of bullying faces serious consequences, including students with disabilities. However, there may be different rules in place for disciplining your child if he or she has an IEP. Make sure you refer to this to determine what action the school may take against your child.
If your child is engaging in bullying behaviors, work with the school and other parties to address the issue. Working together with teachers, counselors and administrators can serve as a consistent and comprehensive approach to dealing with -- and hopefully stopping -- bullying.
Being an advocate for your child
Whatever side of bullying your child may be on, it is crucial that you support your child and get him or her necessary help. Bullying can quickly get out of control and lead to serious legal consequences or threats to the victim's safety. In these situations, or if you have concerns about a teacher, school or district's role in bullying, you can reach out to an attorney to discuss your legal options.