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Take steps to stop bullying

To the editor:

If you are aware of someone who has been bullied which caused that person physical or emotional distress, you have an obligation to speak up. This includes your knowledge of students or adults, especially those in leadership positions, who were aware of the bullying and did not report it or try to stop the behavior. When children are singled out and subjected to bullying by other children or adults, it can be grounds for legal and civil action. In addition, adults who condone or ignore bullying can be liable. School administrators, teachers, coaches, parents and other adults have a responsibility to ensure that bullying is not tolerated. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable.

The law behind intentional infliction of emotional distress exists to compensate those who have been severely damaged, either psychologically or emotionally, by the utter disregard for human dignity by another person. Under Ohio law, people can bring claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. There are legal cases that have been won around the country, including Ohio, involving children who have been bullied in school which may have led to them attempting or committing suicide.

How are bullying and cyberbullying defined in Ohio anti-bullying laws and regulations?

Ohio anti-bullying laws include the following definitions of bullying or harassing behavior:

“Harassment, intimidation, or bullying” means either of the following: Any intentional written, verbal, electronic or physical act that a student has exhibited toward another particular student more than once and the behavior both causes mental or physical harm to the other student; or is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the other student.

What are the policy requirements for schools to prevent and respond to bullying behavior?

Ohio school districts must establish a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying. School district policies must contain key policy and procedural elements, including, but not limited to: Statements prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying and statements of scope indicating where and when the policy applies; definitions of prohibited behavior that are inclusive of definitions in state law; procedures for reporting, investigations, and documentation; strategies for protecting a victim or other person from harassment, intimidation or bullying or from retaliation following a report; disciplinary consequences for violation of the policy; statements prohibiting students from making false reports; statements about how the policy will be publicized within the district; and requirements that districts provide a written summary of all report incidents and post the summary on the district website.

All of us should have a zero tolerance policy for bullied behavior. If we see it, we should address it and report it. Failure to do so could lead to physical, emotional harm and possibly suicide by the bullied person. None of us would want that to happen.

Frank Krajovic

Woodstock, Ga.

(Editor’s note: Krajovic is a 1965 graduate of Catholic Central High School.)

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