Kisling, Nestico & Redick Take A Stand Against Bullying

November 4, 2019 - By 
Kisling, Nestico & Redick

School bullies are nothing new. But while telling kids to just buck up and learn to throw a punch may have sufficed in another era, today’s kids are facing a constant barrage of teasing and threats, which has led to increasingly tragic consequences. Take the case of Bethany Thompson, an 11-year-old Ohio girl who took her own life after being relentlessly bullied at school. Bethany’s case was so egregious that her parents filed a lawsuit with help from the Ohio personal injury law firm of Kisling, Nestico & Redick in hopes that it would force the Triad Local School District in North Lewisburg to enact reform so that other parents wouldn’t have to suffer such a devastating loss.

In an effort to raise awareness about bullying, advocates have deemed the month of October National Bullying Prevention Month. There are many things that parents, children, and school staff can do to help kids like Bethany. The attorneys at Kisling, Nestico & Redick want to help communities by teaching more about bullying, the signs of bullying, and the steps that you can take to respond to it or, even better, prevent it so that we can create a more positive environment for our kids.

More Than Just Being Mean

What sets mean behavior or a normal altercation apart from true bullying? The general consensus is that bullying is unwanted, aggressive, and repetitive or capable of being repeated over time. It stems from a real or perceived power imbalance that may be due to a disparity in size or strength, social status, or manipulation of damaging or embarrassing information.

More Than Pushing and Shoving

Bullying can take many forms.

Physical bullying which may involve behaviors like hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, or breaking one’s possessions is somewhat easier to delineate. However, verbal and social bullying are often more pervasive and can result in more severe psychological trauma for the victim.

Verbal and social bullying  can include actions such as teasing, name-calling, making threats, spreading rumors, purposely excluding someone from a group, and other actions designed to purposely harm someone’s reputation or social standing.

Cyberbullying has seen a dramatic uptick due to the rapid increase in the prevalence of handheld technology and electronic social networks. It includes sending, posting, or sharing degrading, false, or harmful content about someone else through networks such as SMS, text, apps, or online forums and social media where other people can post, view, and share content.

The Dangers of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is of special concern because of its persistent and permanent nature. With online forums creating a permanent electronic record of a person’s views, activities, and behavior, the online reputations of victims and perpetrators alike can follow them without end; this can negatively impact college admissions, future employment, and social activities.

Cyberbullying is also thought to be especially traumatic for victims because of childrens’ constant exposure to social media and digital forums. Whereas teasing and name-calling was once limited to school hours, today’s victims are continually barraged with online abuse and have no escape or relief.

With cyberbullying, antagonists can attack their victims with a high degree of anonymity through the use of fake screen names, unidentified email addresses, and anonymous social forums. In addition, it is difficult to identify those who are doing the bullying, which makes it hard to address the situation. Cyberbullying can also be more difficult for teachers and parents to recognize because it doesn’t occur in a public space.

Signs of Bullying

Children are often reticent to report bullying because they fear retaliation or backlash from those who are bullying them. Moreover, kids who are bullied may already feel helpless and socially isolated; they think that no one cares or understands what they are going through.

Bullying is also humiliating, so children may be seen as weak or a tattletale for being unable to control the situation. That’s why it’s especially important for adults to recognize the warning signs of bullying. It’s also critical to talk with children about bullying and reinforce the resources and responsible adults to whom they can turn for help.

Here are some signs from the law offices of Kisling, Nestico & Redick that can help you identify if your child is being bullied:

  • unusual bruising and physical injuries or damaged clothing
  • lost or destroyed personal belongings, such as books, electronics, or jewelry
  • frequent complaints of headaches or stomach aches (the result of psychosomatic illness)
  • changes in eating habits or coming home from school hungry (because they did not eat lunch)
  • increased difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • expressing feelings of anxiety or decreased self-esteem
  • self-destructive behaviors

Parents should also be vigilant of signs that their children may be bullying others. Some of the signs may include:

  • angry outbursts or problems with rage
  • blaming others and failure to accept responsibility for their actions
  • unexplained acquisition of toys, clothing, and/or money
  • lack empathy when others are hurt or in pain
  • preventing others from playing with their group of friends

Effects of Bullying

While media reports often link bullying with suicide, this is infrequently the case. However, even a single life lost to bullying is one too many. And kids who are bullied frequently experience mental health issues and associated physical ailments than can persist into adulthood.

Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy. They are also more likely to suffer from decreased academic achievement, which can severely limit their educational and job opportunities in the future.

How You Can Help Prevent Bullying

Parents and school staff are the first line of defense in preventing bullying. You can influence the impact of bullying on your own children or others’ by talking about what bullying is and making sure that kids know how to safely defend themselves or get help. It’s also important to check in with kids often and keep the lines of communication open. Learn about their friends and what’s going on in and out of school.

Even before any bullying activity occurs, it’s important to encourage kids to do what they enjoy and are passionate about. Special interests and hobbies such as music, art, or sports can boost their confidence, help them make friends, and make them less prone to bullying behavior. Most importantly, you can model to your children and others how to treat others with kindness and respect.

What to Do If You Suspect Bullying

Schools are one of the most common places that bullying occurs and one of the few places where parents and teachers can intervene to prevent its occurrence. If you suspect that your child is being bullied or is bullying others, you should report it immediately to school administrators or adult supervisors at the facility where it is occurring. Gather details such as when and where the bullying occurred and who was involved, including other potential victims. Write a detailed report, in addition to gathering physical evidence, such as damaged property, photographs, and screenshots (in the case of cyberbullying).

After you have gathered all of the details, you should request to speak with your child’s teachers and school administrators. Depending on their level of responsiveness, you may even need to contact the principal and/or superintendent of the school. Make sure that you document your requests to meet, any meetings that occur, and what was discussed during the meetings.

Many schools in Columbus have anti-bullying policies designed to help children feel safe reporting what is happening to them. Ask about any policies that are in place to protect your child so that you can understand how the incident is being investigated and what steps the school is supposed to take to keep your child safe.

If your child has been physically harmed due to bullying, you should notify the police department immediately. Police will investigate the incident and charge the person who hurt your child with a crime if the bully has violated state laws on battery, assault, harassment, stalking, or cyberstalking.

Kisling, Nestico & Redick Stands Against Bullying

Our team at Kisling, Nestico & Redick understands the complexity and prevalence of bullying in today’s ever-connected world. We have firsthand experience with bullying in Ohio schools and online. Some of our attorneys experienced bullying as children, and others have dealt with these issues with their own children.

That’s why the team as Kisling, Nestico & Redick is dedicated to increasing awareness of the impact of all forms of bullying and how to prevent it. By raising awareness of bullying among children at school and online, we hope to help parents, teachers, and other adults prevent bullying. We also hope to help adults resolve this behavior before it leads to further harm.

KNR supports organizations such as STOMP Out Bullying through our KNR Cares About Kids program. We have also instituted our own anti-bullying pledge to educate parents and children and enlist their help in combating this troubling epidemic.

Speak to an Ohio Attorney for Help Today

Watching your child suffer, whether physically or emotionally, feels like a punch to the gut. Even worse, the failure of school officials to act on your concerns can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless. Speaking to an attorney can help you understand your rights and what you can do next.

Our attorneys at Kisling, Nestico & Redick understand how harmful bullying can be to children. Contact our office today by calling 1-800-Hurt-Now, or fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation.

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