Other Causes of Action

  • Bullying/Harassment

    Personal injury and bullying of students at schools

    Having your child come home from school injured by other students (through bullying) or by school staff members (through abuse or neglect) is not something a caring parent ever expects to happen to a student in a public school. Yet it happens in schools nationwide, on a daily basis.

    If you suspect sexual or any other type of abuse of your child by other students or school staff, you should contact police and Child Protective Services immediately, as well as attorney. Whether you and your child is entitled to monetary damages or other remedies for what has transpired is a time-sensitive, fact-sensitive inquiry.

    Types of Personal Injuries that Occur in Schools

  • Sexual abuse
  • Head and brain injury while playing sports
  • Assaults by another student, teacher or staff member
  • Restraints of students with disabilities for excessive periods of time or improperly performed restraints which lead to injury of the student
  • Involuntary confinement of a student for excessive periods of time
  • School bus accidents
  • Children in special education or who have a 504 plan are especially vulnerable to bullying and abuse – but fortunately, they have more protections legally than regular education children do in many instances.

    Bullying and Its Effect on School Children with Emphasis on Disabled or Asperger Syndrome Students
    Steven H. Page, PhD

    “Mum, I can't tell when people are teasing me or being nice, but someday someone will really want to be my friend, and I want to be available” (cited in Attwood, 2004).

    In one study, 90% of the mothers of children with Asperger’s syndrome reported that their child had been a target of some form bullying within the previous year (Little, 2002). Researchers believe this value may be a conservative estimate because targets can be reluctant to report bullying even to their parents (Hay et al. 2004, Attwood, 2004).

    80% of adolescents and 90% of 4th through 8th graders reported being bullied at school (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). Students reported that 71% of the teachers or other adults in the classroom ignored bullying incidents (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). There is evidence showing peer group support for aggressive behaviors as early as the first grade (Estell, et al., 2002).

    Most states, including Indiana, do not yet collect information on bullying incidents, although the accumulation and dissemination of such data would seem to be useful in examining bullying in schools and determining why it persists (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). As of 2003, twenty-two states have adopted policies to deal with bullying; Indiana is not one of the states (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). In 2005 Indiana adopted a token attempt to address bullying by amending the discipline rules governing school corporations to (1) prohibit bullying, (2) include provisions concerning education, parental involvement, reporting, investigation, and intervention apply to students (1) on school grounds, (2) at school activity, function, or event, (3) traveling to or from school or school activity, function, or event, or (4) using property or equipment provided by the school. However, noncompliance with this section by the school may not be used as evidence against the school (IC 20-33-8-13.5).

    Definition of Bullying

    Research shows that one salient feature inherent in the definition of bullying is the existence of an imbalance of physical and/or psychological power (Ross, 2003, Eisenberg & Aalsma, 2005, Attwood, 2004, Estell & Chamberlin, 2003, Olweus, et al., 1999). The bully is at least perceived to be stronger than the victim. Ross (2003) defined bullying as …intentional and generally unprovoked attempts by one or more individuals to inflict physical hurt and/or psychological distress on one or more victims. There must be an imbalance of physical or psychological power. There can be immediate or delayed consequences from the bullying (Attwood, 2004) and the consequences can persist into adulthood (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).

    There is growing consensus that a single act of aggression can constitute bullying behavior (La Fontaine, 1991, Olweus, 1993, Ross, 2003, Attwood, 2004, Gray, 2004). Although Ross indicated that her definition generally refers to a series of actions over time, like Olweus (1993), she emphasized that a single incident can be regarded as bullying. It is Ross’ position that to require that a series of actions occur over time imposes an adult interpretation of bullying on children. Further, she noted that the actions do not have to be repetitive because, as La Fontaine (1991) concluded, children believe that single incidents are bullying. Obviously, the definition affects research because it influences frequency data upon which decisions are made. Educators need a clear definition to determine what behaviors are considered to be bullying and how to discriminate between bullies and other aggressive children. This knowledge will advance educational policy and shape prevention and intervention practices in schools.

    Types of Bullies

    Bullies are associated with social aggression and may be a manifestation of more complex mental health conditions (Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000). Bullies are psychologically strongest, enjoyed high social standing among their classmates and tend to be leaders of their groups (Juvonen et al, 2003, Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). Bullying can be a way to establish a kind of social status: being tough, dominant, and considered "cool". Unfortunately, aggression can be a very effective way of displaying higher social status. By picking on socially marginalized individuals - or marginalizing the individuals they lick on - bullies show that they are in control, and can actually draw the approval of more popular peers who dislike the victim (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). Bullies are more likely to manifest defiant (Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000, Nansel et al, 2001, Sourander et al, 2000, Vossekuil et al, 2002), negative attitudes toward the school (Forero et al, 1999, Nansel at al, 2001), and use drugs (Nansel et al, 2001). They seek passive or proactive bullying targets (Voors, 2000).

    Passive victims tend to be physically weaker with signs of anxiety, low self esteem, and evident insecurity. They are shy, tend to engage in solitary pursuits and while having academic abilities, may not be successful in sports nor have an extensive network of friends. They also tend to be passive in terms of their response to a bullying act; more likely to relinquish money, food, or possessions; and less likely to retaliate with anger or be supported by peers (Voors, 2000, Attwood, 2004, Estell & Chamberlin, 2003). Some children with Aspergers Syndrome fit this category (Attwood, 2004)

    The patterns of bullying of Asperger Syndrome children were different than the general population with higher than expected shunning, and in teenage years, one in ten adolescents with Asperger Syndrome were the victim of a gang attack. Non-sexual genital assaults on Asperger Syndrome boys were much higher than expected (Hay et al., 2004). Attwood (2004) has stated:

    Another reason that children with Asperger Syndrome are more likely to be the target of bullying acts is that they often actively seek quiet solitude in the playground: being alone should not be perceived as being lonely. They may be able to cope reasonably well with the social demands of the classroom but their social abilities may be achieved by intellectual effort rather than intuition. When class is over they are mentally exhausted. There is further exhaustion from trying to maintain emotional control and cope with changes in school routines and aspects of the sensory world, such as the noises of the classroom and playground. Their restorative from mental energy and emotional stability is quiet solitude, in contrast to other typical young children whose emotional restoratives in the playground are being noisy, active, and sociable. Unfortunately, one of the prime characteristics of a target for bullying is being alone. When children with Asperger Syndrome re-energize by isolating themselves from their playmate, they are placing themselves in circumstances that are more likely to make them potential targets.

    Children with Aspergers Syndrome are also more likely to be targets of bullying as they are perceived by other children as naive, gullible, eccentric, low status and “poor” in currency of social status and friendship. They are not “cool”, macho, or popular and are perceived as “soft”, having few friends prepared to come to their defense. Often friends will be covert with their friend-shipping an Aspergers Syndrome child to avoid being targets of the bullies (Attwood, 2004).

    Clinical experience suggests that children with Aspergers syndrome can have difficulties with aspects of characterization or the capacity to identify the personality descriptions and abilities of their peers. Typical peers instinctively know which children to avoid and whether or not someone is to be trusted. Without this “radar” and identification system, children with Asperger Syndrome may not avoid these children who are notorious for teasing and bullying (Attwood, 2004).

    Proactive bullying targets have difficulties with friendship skills and, in contrast to passive targets, some aspects of their social skills and maturities are perceived as irritating and provocative by both their peers and adults. They may be socially clumsy, not knowing how to read a social situation or engage in reciprocal participation. They may not know how to join a group of children, relying on inappropriate behavior such as wrestling, being “attention-seeking” or dominating, and not recognizing when to stop. The response of other children can be that “he deserved it” and “it was the only way to stop him” (Voors, 2004; Attwood, 2004). This profile is also appropriate to children with Asperger Syndrome (Attwood, 2004). They are often labeled bullies because the whole context is rarely uncovered. This group has been called bully/victims in the literature.

    Bully/Victim who bully others and are themselves also victimized by their peers, may represent a group that is particularly high risk for poor social adjustment and are “by far the most socially ostracized by their peers (Kumpulainen et al., 1998, Juvonen et al., 2003). Bully/victims are the most troubled group, “most likely to display conduct problems”, and school and peer relationship problems (Juvonen et al, 2003, Forero et al, 1999, Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000, Nansel at al, 2001), and “extreme behavioral problems (Wolke et al, 2000, Foreero et al, 1999, Nansel et al, 2001, Sourander et al, 2000, Juvonen et al, 2003, Veenstra et al 2005). Bully/victims are “least engaged in school” (Juvonen et al., 2003).

    Compared with bullies and victims, the bully-victim group seems to have the worst of both worlds and a unique risk profile. Their high levels of social avoidance, conduct problems, and school difficulties suggest that they are a particularly high risk group. Indeed, previous research indicates that bully-victims are most vulnerable to both concurrent and subsequent psychiatric disorders. Victims who bully others also best fit the profiles of seriously violent offenders (Forero et al, 1999, Nansel at al, 2001, Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000, Juvonen et al, 2003, Arseneault et al, 2006).

    Basically, these kids tend to be socially alienated. They react to classmates with dislike and hostility, and inspire the same feelings in others (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).

    Behavior problems of boys who were bully/victims show a pattern of comorbid problems that include internalizing and externalizing problems. Whereas, behavioral problems of boys who were pure victims were limited to internalizing problems. Girls show comorbid problems as both pure victims and bully/victims (Arseneault et al, 2006).

    Types of Bullying

    Direct bullying is overt and involves all sorts of face to face physical and verbal confrontations such as kicking, hitting, threatening, name-calling, imitating, and insulting (van der Wal et al, 2003, Eisenberg & Aalsma, 2005). Bullying others directly is much greater risk factor for delinquent behavior than indirect bullying (van der Wal, 2003). These bullies tend to watch significantly more violent TV than non-bullying peers (Zimmerman, et al. 2005). Attwood (2004) has numerous clinical examples of Asperger Syndrome children being called “stupid”, “psycho” and “gay”. Children with Asperger Syndrome value intellectual ability as one of their few strengths which can be a compensation for low social status.

    Indirect bullying is covert, relational bullying and involves aspects of social isolation such as ignoring, ostracism, excluding, backbiting, spreading rumors, and cyber-bullying (van der Wal et al, 2003, Bollmer et al., 2005, Eisenberg & Aalsma, 2005, Willard, 2007). Extreme outbursts of violence have been associated with the inability to cope with social ridicule and personal rejection and not associated with direct bullying (Vossekuil et al, 2002). It is using the social network or one's clique, classroom, or school to emotionally attack someone. If done effectively, the victim might not even know who initiated the attack (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).

    Attwood (2004) has stated:

    There are other types of bullying that are perhaps subtler but equally devastating in their effects. Someone might obviously steal a possession and torment the child as he or she tries to retrieve it, or engage in malicious gossip, use comments that result in humiliation, or use obscene gestures. Another form of bullying is peer shunning or social exclusion, such as not being included in a group at meal times, not having questions answered, deliberately being chosen last in a game or team, or not being invited to a social event. There are also forms of bullying experienced by children but committed by adults. This can be where a relative or family friend enjoys teasing or playing practical jokes, but it can also include examples when a teacher uses his or her position of authority to ridicule and humiliate a child, respond with sarcasm or be overly critical or punitive, or use facial expressions that discredit or reflect non-acceptance (such as a glance that 'says' to the class 'I think he's silly too'). Such actions can create a model of behavior and demonstrate approval for similar acts between class peers and the child who is the target of the adult's acts of bullying.

    While the pain of a physical attack often fades quickly, being a social outcast can last for months or years, and the social and emotional impact can persist into adulthood (Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).

    Schools and Bullying

    Pepler & Craig (1999) documented that bullying programs at school usually rely on staff surveillance. However, bullying acts are usually covert. Pepler & Craig (1999) quantified that only 15% of bullying in a classroom or 5% of the bullying in the playground are observed by school staff. Worse yet, Nabuzoka (2003) documented that staff appraisals of bullying events involving students with special needs had no correlation to empirical assessments of who was being victimized. Whereas, student and parent appraisals significantly correlated with empirical determinations of who was victimized. Another words, parents and students knew who the real victim was, but the school often identified the victim as the aggressor (more on this below).

    The concept of separate schools and classrooms continues to be challenged on its efficacy for students with disabilities. As the emphasis on including students with disabilities into general education classrooms has increased, educators have been primarily focused on their academic success. Much less emphasis has been placed on social integration. While it remains important to evaluate academic progress, it is also important for students with disabilities to succeed socially (Spencer & Carter, 2006). According to Asher and Coie (1990), peer relationships and peer interaction are important elements needed in competent social skill development during childhood. Williams & Happe (2009) reported that friendship quality was significantly attenuated bullying behavior. Internalizing problems and low friendship quality were significantly related to victimization.

    As students with disabilities are increasingly being taught with their non-disabled peers, they are subject to a different range of childhood experiences and may be at an increased risk for bullying. Unfortunately, these experiences are not always positive, and they can have an enormous impact on children (Spencer & Carter, 2006, Pivik et al., 2002). Pivik (2002) found bullying to be an unfortunate side-effect when they examined the barriers to inclusion within eight different school settings. Attwood (2004) has stated:

    Government policy is to promote the integration of children with Asperger Syndrome with their age peers at school, but there is a distinct risk associated with integration, that is the propensity of children with Asperger Syndrome to be bullied. The unusual profile of abilities, especially in the social domain, is not only recognized by parents and professionals, it is also very apparent to their peers. Some peers of a young child with Asperger Syndrome will interact in a 'maternal' way, being protective and kind, while others will respond as 'predators', with malicious intentions of teasing and bully someone they regard as an obvious and easy target.

    Some forms of bullying are relatively rare in the general school population but clinical experience suggests they can be more common when the target of a bullying action is a young child with Asperger Syndrome. Such children are often socially naive, trusting, and eager to be part of a group. Another child may make a socially inappropriate or bizarre suggestion, and because of the nature of Asperger Syndrome, the target does not recognize the social meaning, context, cues, and consequences. They are often oblivious to being “set up” (Attwood, 2004).

    Another form of bullying a child with Asperger Syndrome is to torment the child while a teacher is not looking and “enjoy” the benefits of the targets response which are usually noticed by the teachers. Children with Asperger Syndrome can be impulsive in their response to bullying and react without thinking of the consequences. Typical peers would delay their response so as not to be caught or recognize how to respond within the context of the situation. When the Asperger Syndrome child responds with anger or violence and is perceived to be the aggressor, the covert operative appears the innocent victim and receives compensation from the supervising adult. Such provocations have been used to delay activities or examinations while the teachers deal with disruptive event (Atwood, 2004).

    The social naivety of children with Asperger Syndrome can lead to an unusual form of bullying described as backhanded bullying. The child intent on committing a bullying act may appear friendly but subsequent actions are certainly not friendly (Gray, 2004, Attwood, 2004).

    Schools which emphasize sports can also unintentionally exacerbate bullying. Dr. John Mayer, President of the National Institute of Sports Professionals stated the following:

    I will not detail here all the reasons behind why the bully does what they do, but again to succinctly sum it up: Bully works for the bully. This behavior is repeated because the bully's aims are accomplished. Sadly, we adults are often to blame for allowing bullying to work well. Also sadly, SPORTS HAD BEEN A COMMON WAY THAT BULLYING HAS BEEN FOSTERED OVER THE YEARS. Too often a youngster's inappropriate aggressiveness against other peers is whisked under the carpet with adult epitaphs such as, 'He's going to be a great ball player.' Or 'She's just being one of the boys.” Unsportsmanlike conduct or bullying on the playing fields of sports is regaled as desirable behavior and often cheered. A not uncommon coaching style is to use negativism toward the player as a motivator. This is just another form of bullying in disguise of an acceptable context, sports achievement. The problem here is that youngsters don't have the experience or judgments necessary to discern appropriate, aggressive sport participation and inappropriate bullying of a weaker opponent. This is where coaching should mold the athlete, not model inappropriate behavior. What about coaches who use abusive/bullying techniques themselves? This modeling is another prime reason why bullying becomes widespread in youth. This Neanderthal approach is not only ethically wrong; it is not effective with today's young athletes. Even though this behavior is grossly inappropriate it persists, even flourishes, in many coaching circles. (Mayer, 2008).

    Societal Perceptions of Bullying

    Until recently, bullying was regarded as merely a typical childhood experience or rite of passage that all students must survive. Unfortunately, this long-held view suggested that children must learn to deal with bullies by themselves (O’Moore & Hillery, 1989; Ross, 2003). Even though this view contradicted the widely held understanding among educators that students must feel safe in order to learn (Olweus & Limber, 1999), little initiative was taken to address bullying, or it was managed ineffectively (Ross). Bullying was either minimally regarded or overlooked as a serious problem (Olweus el al, 1999). The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the highest percentage of 12-15 year olds felt bullying to be a “big problems” for people their age (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2001). Evidence from a number of comprehensive studies has suggested that bullying behavior is a common and substantial occurrence in US schools (DeVoe et al, 2003, Hoover et al., 1992, Nansel et al., 2001).

    Historically, bullying has been misunderstood not only by parents and educators but by academia as well. It is a complex problem that continues to perplex researchers and educators today. Why it is an enduring problem remains a question of serious, important debate. The bullying phenomenon is a problem of international significance. It is documented in the literature not only in the United States, but in England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Japan. Prevalence data on bullying vary along methodological differences; however, figures between 10% and 20% are common (Spencer & Carter, 2006).

    Physical and Mental Health Effects from Bullying on Children

    Children who are bullied manifest adjustment problems, including internalizing disorders (Hawker & Boulton, 2000, Attwood, 2004) and externalizing disorders (Nansel et al, 2003, Wolke et al, 2000, Attwood, 2004). In fact both victims of bullying and bully/victims had more internalizing problems, more externalizing problems, fewer prosocial behaviors and were less happy than controls at 7 years of age even after taking into account their baseline behavior at age 5 (Arseneault et al, 2006). The immediate effects of bullying are extremely debilitating to victims (Ross, 2003). Hazler, et al , 1997 found that the academic performance of victims decreases significantly. In addition, Reid (1990) determined that the low morale and acute despair experienced by victims lead to truancy. Other effects include physical health problems (Kumpulainen et al, 1998, Williams et al, 1996), chronic illnesses (Ross & Ross, 1988) running away, and even suicide (Beck, 1986; Besag, 1989; Elliott, 1991). Additional studies concluded that victims of bullying endure anxiety, depression, poor-esteem, impaired concentration, loneliness, bedwetting, avoidant behavior, and abdominal pain (Austin & Joseph, 1996; Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996; Olweus, 1993, Fekkes et al, 2006, Zimmerman et al , 2005, Forero et al, 1999, Boulton & Smith, 1994, Crick et al, 1998, White & Roberson-Nay, 2009, Attwood, 2004). Bond et al (2001) found that secondary school students who were bullied had a higher risk of depression and anxiety during the next school year. Psychosocial maladjustments (depression and anxiety) both preceded and followed peer victimization. Physical symptoms only followed a period of victimization and unlike psychosocial symptoms did not precede victimization (Nishina et al, 2005, and Fekkes et al., 2006). Suicidal ideation was especially frequent among bullied children who had little social support (Rigby & Slee, 1999, van der Wal, et al, 2003, Kim et al, 2005). Suicidal ideation and depression were more strongly associated to indirect bullying (van der Wal, et al., 2003). Behavioral avoidance and evaluative social anxiety INCREASED by age within the high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome group, whereas behavioral avoidance decreased with age in control participants (Kuusikko et al, 2008).

    Children with Aspergers Syndrome have several problems with regard to reporting being a target. They have impaired Theory of Mind abilities (difficulty determining the thoughts and intentions of others) in comparison to their peers. They may not intuitively know that the acts of other children are examples of being bullied. They can sometimes consider that such behavior is typical play and something that they have come to accept as yet another confusing behavior of their peers (Baron-Cohen, 1995; Attwood, 2004).

    Other children can be more familiar with the advantages of telling someone their practical, social, and emotional problems. Children with Aspergers Syndrome tend to solve academic and social problems on their own, and asking for guidance and help from another person may not be automatically considered as a solution to the problem of being a target of bullying. Their thinking can be described as “one track”, with a relative lack of cognitive flexibility to consider alternative responses. Disclosure and seeking advice or help from friends or adults is much less likely with this population (Attwood, 2004).

    Unique changes in an Aspergers Syndrome child may also be the result of bullying. Changes in his special interest from benign topics to interest in weapons, the martial arts, and violent films. The child's drawings may also express violence, retaliation, and retribution. Asperger children may mimic the behavior of bullies. However, the Asperger syndrome child will not be aware that such behavior is unacceptable; they are simply imitating the behavior experienced when interacting with peers (Attwood, 2004).

    A mild, short-term episode of experimentally induce ostracism was performed on adolescents with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and a control group. Ostracism had significant effect on the control group in terms of anxiety and four needs (self-esteem, belonging, control, and meaningful existence). However, ostracism had no significant effect on mood in the ASC group. This implies that the ASC group has ongoing experiences with ostracism or do not recognize ostracism (Sebastian, et al., 2009).

    Asperger Syndrome children will have great difficulty distinguishing between friendly acts of teasing with the intent to share in the humor from acts of bullying. Other children will be reluctant to interact with a child who is too quick to assume malicious intent. Accidental acts, such as knocking into the child with Aspergers Syndrome could be perceived as intentional harm. The character of the accident-prone child not being noted for malicious acts, and his or her clear remorse and apology benign viewed as signs that they did not have malicious intent. These signs may not be automatically apparent to the child with Asperger Syndrome whose response may be to retaliate physically or to report an act of bullying - “it hurt, therefore it was deliberate” (Attwood, 2004).

    If being bullied is perceived as an adverse experience, one would assume that the child would subsequently avoid such situations. This is not always the case with children with Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome children may even seek out the abuse because it has become his or her routine (Attwood, 2004).

    To be called “stupid” is particularly damaging to an Aspergers Syndrome child (Attwood, 2004). The daily abuse can also cause Aspergers Syndrome children to question their sanity (daily being called “psycho”) or sexual orientation (daily being called “gay”) (Attwood, 2004). Atwood (2004) had stated, “Sometimes the frequency and intensity of being the target of bullying is so severe that children with Aspergers Syndrome feel that when they go to school they are entering a war zone. They are likely to be 'ambushed' at any time of the day, but without any training in 'combat' or back-up from, fellow 'soldiers'.”

    Aspergers Syndrome children have considerable difficulty understanding why they are the target of bullies. Their main way of trying to understand “why?” is to repeatedly replay the events in their thoughts. This can be a daily experience, even though the incidents occurred decades earlier. As the events are repeated in their thoughts, so are the emotions experienced again. Clinical signs of post traumatic stress disorder have been observed in Aspergers Syndrome children who have been persistently bullied. They often require extensive psychotherapy to overcome deep and entrenched traumas caused by being the target of persistent bullying which often began in early childhood. They cannot easily forgive and forget until they understand why (Attwood, 2004).

    Bullying and Students with Special Needs.

    In spite of the pervasiveness of bullying, little research exists that examines the relationship between bullying and students with disabilities (Mishna, 2003). Within this limited research, some studies have shown that these students have an increased risk for being victimized (Nabuzoka & Smith, 1993; Yude, Goodman & McConachie, 1998). Other studies indicate that students with learning problems are highly represented in the victim population (Martlew & Hodson, 1991; Nabuzoka & Smith; O’Moore & Hillery, 1989). For example, students with learning disabilities, emotional disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and physical disabilities often demonstrate a lack of social awareness which may make them more vulnerable to victimization (Unnever & Cornell, 2003). Additionally, research has shown that students with special needs are more susceptible to bullying and are more likely to be sociometrically rejected (Martlew & Hodson; Nabuzoka & Smith; O’Moore & Hillery; Whitney, Smith & Thompson, 1994, Juvonen et al, 2003). Hodges and Perry (1996) stated that peer rejection is a social risk factor that contributes to victimization. Finally, a study by Whitney et al. suggested that bullying is often related to the severity and nature of the student’s disability.

    Given the severe effects, an imperative exists to explore the bullying experiences of students with disabilities. If we are to successfully educate students with disabilities, it is critical to understand bullying and its relationship to students with disabilities.

    Results from the eleven studies published from 1989 to 2003 indicated students with disabilities, both visible and non-visible, experienced bullying more than their non-disabled general education peers and that boys were bullied more often than girls (Dawkins, 1996; O’Moore & Hillery, 1989 Carter & Spencer, 2006). Reported forms of bullying included name-calling, teasing, physical attacks, severe verbal bullying, verbal aggression, threats, taking belongings, imitating, and making fun of the students with disabilities. Research on bullying and victimization in children seem to support a connection between individual differences characteristics of children and adolescents who have special developmental, emotional/behavioral, physical, and/or healthcare needs those victimized by bullying (Spencer & Carter, 2006, Flynt & Morton, 2004, Marini et al., 2001, Mishna 2003, Thompson et al, 1994).

    Bullying and Students with Visible Disabilities

    Comparisons were made between one group of children with medical conditions that resulted in visible physical disabilities and a control group of children without visible physical disabilities. Results indicated the increased frequency with which the visibly disabled children reported being bulled was statistically significant compared to the control group of children. Fifty percent of the disabled children were bullied at school at least once during the school term in comparison to 21% of the control group of children. Moreover, disabled children were twice as likely to be bullied regularly with 30% of the disabled children being bullied regularly as compared to 14% of the control group of children. Interestingly, name-calling was the most common form of bullying.

    In an attempt to ascertain why disabled children were bullied more than the control group of children, a multivariate analysis identified four factors that were predictive of a child’s chance of being bullied: receiving extra help in school, being alone at playtime, having less than two good friends, and being male.

    Yude et al. (1998) examined aspects of social integration, including acceptance, friendship, victimization, and bullying in mainstreamed children with hemiplegia in 54 different schools in London, England. Fifty-five mainstreamed children with hemiplegia who had a measured IQ of over 60, aged nine to ten years, were compared with all classmates on socio-metric measures of popularity and friendship and with 55 matched controls on measures of victimization.

    Overall, disabled children received fewer positive nominations and more negative nominations than their classmates. Moreover, disabled children had fewer reciprocated friendships than their classmates. Forty-five percent of disabled children were moderately or severely victimized as compared to 13% of matched controls. In regard to bullying, teachers indicated that six percent of disabled children and 17% of matched controls bullied other children. According to the classmates, 6 of 53 disabled children (11%) and 181 of 1,421 classmates (13%) started fights and picked on other children.

    The authors suggested that the association between the presence of hemiplegia and either peer relationship problems or victimization might be accounted for by a variety of reasons. First of all, the classmates may be biased towards children with disabilities or more generally towards children who are different. Another possible explanation is that there could be neurological aspects of hemiplegia that result in social awareness or social skill deficits. Finally, some of the children interviewed suggested that the disabled children might attract victimization by their sensitivity to comments about their disability and by their tendency to become visibly upset or to cry easily.

    Llewellyn (2000) examined the experiences of students with physical disabilities who had been mainstreamed in a rural school in the United Kingdom. The analysis of the interviews revealed students’ concern about social isolation and bullying by peers without disabilities. From the student and parent interviews, it was learned that the students with disabilities in this inclusive setting often felt ostracized. In addition, there was one report of physical bullying and four of the six students reported severe verbal bullying. The interview summaries reported trauma and long-lasting effects from the bullying experiences.

    Langevin et al., (1998) investigated the relationship between stuttering and teasing/bullying for school-aged children in Edmonton, Alberta. The purposes of their study were to collect data on the frequency, impact, and nature of teasing and other forms of bullying experienced by children who stutter.

    Results from this study showed that 59% were teased or bullied about their stuttering, and 56 % experienced more serious teasing/bullying occurring once a week or more frequently. Sixty-nine percent were teased or bullied about other things with 50% being teased or bullied once a week or more frequently.

    The data demonstrated that imitating and making fun of stuttering and being called names were the most frequent types of bullying behavior reported by children in this study. Stuttering severity did not appear to be a factor in the frequency of teasing or bullying; however, it is important to note that all of the children who stuttered severely were teased/bullied. Further, the findings supported the authors’ hypothesis that stuttering is an external difference that places children at risk for victimization.

    Bullying and Students with Non-Visible Disabilities

    Martlew and Hodson (1991) investigated bullying as part of a study that examined issues of social integration for students with mild learning disabilities (MLD). Independent group t-tests were used to examine differences between the responses of mainstream and MLD children to the questions about teasing and friendship. Based on playground observations and interviews with the subset of children from the original sample, researchers found that the children with MLD had fewer friends and were teased significantly more than the children without MLD. A further comparison between the younger (7-9 years) and older children (9-11 years) showed there were no significant differences in the amount of teasing reported.

    Nabuzoka and Smith (1993) examined the sociometric status and social behavior of learning disabled (LD) children from six classes within two schools with integrated resources in Sheffield, United Kingdom. The students with LD were classified as having moderate learning disabilities.

    Results indicated that students with LD were nominated as shy, victims of bullying, and seeking help more significantly than students without LD. While there were no gender differences in sociometric status; girls with LD were particularly at risk for being bullied compared to boys with LD. Being disruptive and starting fights were aggressive behaviors associated with bullying, but these behaviors were not distinguishable between the students with LD and the students without LD.

    Finally, the relationship between the teachers’ scores of social behavior and peer nominations varied significantly between students with LD and students without LD. The authors suggested that the findings reflect real differences between the teachers’ and peers’ perceptions of behavior in students with and without LD. It may be that the students with LD have deficits in decoding social situations. In regard to being victims of bullies, they may not have understood how to avoid being victimized. Also, the authors indicated that teachers primarily observe students with LD in classroom settings that are more structured with more clearly defined social roles. Therefore, the social roles may be easier to decode. In contrast, mainstream peers have opportunities to observe the students with LD in more unstructured situations that may not be as easy for students with LD to decode. The lack of correlation between peer and teacher assessments of behavior of students with LD could reflect the variation in the abilities of students with LD to decode across different social situations.

    In 2003, Nabuzoka examined bullying and other behaviors of children with and without learning disabilities (LD) in a mainstream school in Sheffield, United Kingdom. Both teacher ratings and peer nominations were used. The behaviors had to be rated using the following five-point scale: (1) never, (2) rarely, (3) sometimes, (4) often, and (5) very often.

    Results indicated that there was a significant relationship between teacher ratings and peer nominations of the behaviors of students without LD. In contrast, no significant relationship was found between teacher and peer assessments of students with LD. Students with LD were assessed as shy and as victims of bullying significantly more than students without LD. However, peers significantly associated being a victim of bullying with shy and help-seeking behaviors while teachers associated victims with fighting, being disruptive, and showing a lack of cooperation. One possible explanation for this difference is that teachers have a relatively limited opportunity to observe students’ social behavior as compared to the opportunities of students’ peers. Therefore, teacher assessments alone may not be adequate to assess students at risk for peer victimization, especially for students with LD.

    In six urban middle schools in a metropolitan area in the southeastern United States, Sabornie (1994) examined the social-affective characteristics, including victimization, of 38 middle school students with LD.

    Results showed that the 38 matched pairs differed significantly with regard to loneliness, integration, victimization, and participation; however, the groups did not differ significantly in self-concept. With regards to victimization, students with LD reported being threatened, physically assaulted, or having their possessions removed from them with greater frequency than their non-disabled peers. The authors suggested that perhaps the students with LD acted too aggressively with the wrong peers, leading to retaliatory acts against them. The authors also noted that excessive passivity among students with LD may have set them up for others to take advantage of them.

    Morrison, 1994 and Morrison & Furlong, 1994 surveyed 554 high school students in a small urban community in Southern California to examine their experiences in school violence and feelings of safety. Participants included 485 students in general classes, 39 students in leadership classes, 11 students from an opportunity class which was defined as a self-contained, half-day program for at-risk students who had behavioral and academic difficulties and 19 students with severe learning disabilities in special day classes.

    Using one-way analyses of variance, differences between groups on perceptions of safety were explored for each of the groups. Students in the opportunity and leadership class experienced and observed higher rates of school violence while the special day class students experienced more bullying than the other groups.

    Humphrey et al (2007) investigated youth with a psycho-educational assessment and peer victimization. Students with ADHD and comorbid psychiatric diagnosis with ADHD reported higher rates of peer victimization than those without a comorbid diagnosis. Peer victimization was positively correlated with parent reports of anxiety, depression, social problems, delinquent behavior, and aggressive behavior.

    Likewise, Baumeister et al (2008) reported that students with learning disabilities (LD) and comorbid psychiatric diagnosis with LD reported higher rates of peer victimization than those without a comorbid diagnosis. Peer victimization was positively correlated with parent reports of withdrawal, anxiety, depressive symptoms, social problems, thought problems, attention problems, and disruptive behavior.

    In the one study including students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Unnever and Cornell (2003) investigated the influence of bullying and victimization in the public middle schools in Roanoke, VA. Results indicated that students with ADHD were at an increased risk for being victimized by bullies. Specifically, 34% of students who reported taking ADHD medication were victimized by bullies at least two or three times a month. In comparison, among the other middle school students, 22 % reported being victimized by bullies at the same rate.

    Unnever and Cornell (2003) also investigated whether the students had engaged in bullying others. Approximately, 13 % of the ADHD students reported being bullies at least two or three times a month while 8% of the other middle school students reported bullying others at the same rate. Results were analyzed with regression analysis on self-control, ADHD, and bullying. Students who reported taking medication for ADHD were both more likely to report being bullied and more likely to bully others. The impact of ADHD on being a victim of bullying (.13) was twice as large as the effect on being a bully (.06). In relation to self-control, the ADHD status was unrelated to bullying when controlling for self-control; therefore, it appeared that students with ADHD were more likely to engage in bullying due to a lack of self-control skills. Interestingly, results of the regression analysis showed that students who reported taking medication for ADHD were not more likely to bully other students.

    In the discussion of their results, the authors suggested that students with ADHD suffer from poor peer status or have few friends which may make them more vulnerable to victimization. Likewise, they indicated that the poor social skills or inappropriate behavior of some students with ADHD could elicit aggressive responses from their schoolmates. Interestingly, results of the regression analysis showed that students who reported taking medication for ADHD were not more likely to bully other students.

    O’Moore and Hillery (1989) examined the nature and incidence of bullying in primary schools in Dublin, Ireland. Results indicated that students attending remedial classes or full-time special classes were particularly prone to frequent bullying. Of the 109 students attending remedial classes, 67.9% reported that they had been bullied at school, while 62.1% of the 639 general education students reported being bullied at school. The highest percentage of victims being bullied at school was 77.2% of the 35 students attending special classes.

    In addition, 54.3% of students in the special classes reported bullying others. Of the students attending remedial classes, 45.9% reported that they bullied others. In comparison, of the students who attended general education classes, 44.5% reported bullying others.

    The overall finding of this study revealed that 17.5% of the remedial students and 14.3% of the special class students were frequently bullied. These figures were twice as high as those reported for non-remedial children. Although the findings in the present study revealed that students with disabilities are bullied more frequently than students without disabilities and engages in bullying behaviors more often than their non-disabled peers, the authors did not conduct any sociometric measures that would further explain their results.

    Disabled Students in General

    Van Cleave & Davis, 2006 used multivariate models adjusted for sociodemographic factors that being a children with special health care needs (CSHCN) was associated with being bullied but not with being a bully or a bully/victim. Having a chronic behavioral, emotional, or developmental problem was associated with bullying others and with being a bully/victim.

    Reducing Bullying

    There is no simple answer to the problem of bullying. There is neither just one kind of child who bullies, nor one kind of individual who is victimized. The complex mix of individual characteristics and social contexts produces the behaviors, and it may be that only through addressing both of those elements can bullying be eliminated Estell & Chamberlin, 2003).

    Prevention, rather than intervention, may prove more economical in terms of both cost and effectiveness. Research shows that preventing problem behavior is often more successful than intervening once the behavior has already been established (Cairns & Cairns, 1994).

    It is clear that there is little evidence that zero tolerance and school security measures have had any impact whatsoever on school safety according the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University, Bloomington (IU News Room, 2004). CEEP continues by stating. "In fact research conducted at the University of Maryland has found a negative association between the use of school security measures and student and teacher perceptions of school safety." (IU News Room, 2004).

    Simply changing school has little effect on reducing the likelihood that a child will be a target of bullying (Olweus, 1993, Attwood, 2004). Aggressive behavior is learned early and becomes resistant to change (Maine Project Against Bullying, 1998-2000). Saylor & Leach (2009) found no clinical improvements from one hour per week intervention in students with disabilities (SWD). In fact, SWD felt more vulnerable to victimization due to diminishing classmate support. Typical peers felt more classmate support at the end of the study. “Small self-contained classes may appear to offer safe and productive learning environments. However, the positive exposure to peer models and peer support that is crucial to SWD development of social competence could not, in this study, be accomplished simply with low-frequency supplemental and “token” inclusion activities.

    However, a team approach using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has been shown to reduce bullying by 50%. Core components of the program are (1) school-wide components - administration of an anonymous questionnaire to assess the nature and prevalence of bullying in each school, a school conference day to discuss bullying at school and plan interventions, formation of a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee to coordinate all aspects of school's program, and increased supervision of students at "hot spots" for bullying; (2) classroom components - establishment and enforcement of class rules against bullying and holding regular class meetings with students to discuss bullying; and (3) individual components which include interventions with children identified as typical peers, bullies and victims, and discussions with parents of involved students (bullies and victims). Teachers may be assisted in these efforts by counselors, early childhood professionals, and school-based mental health professionals (Attwood, 2004, Olweus et al., 1999, Estell & Chamberlin, 2003, IU News Room, 2004).

    Essential to any bullying program is (1) the adults at school, and at home must become aware of the extent of bully/victim problems in their own school and (2) adults must engage themselves, with some degree of seriousness, in changing the situation. Without adults' acknowledgement of schools' existing bully/victim problems and a clear commitment by a majority of the school staff to participate actively in the anti-bullying efforts, the program is likely to have limited success (Olweus, et al., 1999).

    The school conference day provides an opportunity for program consultants and school personnel to review results of the survey, discuss elements of their bullying prevention program (e.g. Olweus Bullying Prevention Program), and make specific plans for implementing the program during the upcoming school year. Ongoing coordination of the program of the school's efforts will be guided by a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee (BPCC). The BPCC can consist of school administrator, a teacher representative from each grade, guidance counselor and/or school-based mental health professional, and parent and student representatives (Olweus, et al., 1999).

    The code of conduct on bullying in schools and early childhood settings should include age appropriate consultation with, and input from, children who attend those settings. Regular review of the code and specific incidents and strategies should be reviewed at classroom meetings and by the BPCC. Information on bullying should be available to the children and include long term consequences for both the bully and the victim, in terms of ability to form friendships and achieve successful employment, alerted to their risks of developing mood disorders and the greater possibility of committing criminal offenses from BPCC. Classroom meetings are also used to enage students in a variety of activities (e.g., role playing, writing, and small-group discussions) through which they gain a better appreciation of the harm caused by bullying and learn strategies to combat it. The silent majority who are neither bully nor victim need to be encouraged to “rescue” both the victim and bully (Attwood, 2004, Olweus et al, 1999, IU News Room, 2004).

    Interventions aimed at specific individual bullies have not worked. This is due to what Robert Cairns has called "correlated constraints": once a behavior is established, a variety of factors within the individual and in their social context align to support that behavior, a constrain avenues for change. As such, in addition to changing the attitude and behavior of the bully, successful interventions need to change the atmosphere of the school which supports bullying. If, after all, an adolescent is considered cool, tough, and popular because he or she picks on others, it may be very hard to get them to change that behavior and jeopardize that status. If, on the other hand, bullying is seen by all students as harmful and disapproved of, this alone might dissuade many bullies from using aggression (Estell & Chamberlin, 1999).

    The bystanders who generally find it disturbing to watch acts of bullying will need their own strategies and encouragement to reduce the number of incidents of bullying. Their previous responses might have included relief that they are not the victim, being immobilized by fear of being a target if they intercede, having diffused sense of responsibility by being in the majority group, not being sure what to do, being advised not get involved, and code of silence and peer pressure not to report what happened. Unfortunately, some bystanders can perceive the event as being humorous or deserved by the target which provides overt encouragement for the bully (Pepler & Craig, 1999, Attwood, 2004).

    The silent majority needs to be encouraged and empowered to intervene. They can be taught to state clearly that what is happening is wrong, must stop, or it will be reported. There are some children within the silent majority who have high social status, a strong sense of social justice, and natural assertiveness. These people can be encouraged and are usually quite successful in intervening, to stop the bullying. Their high social status may also encourage other children to express their disapproval of bullying (Attwood, 2004, Olweus et al., 1999).

    Attwood (2004) suggests that part of the children's code on bullying include commendations for positive intervention by a bystander, but that other children who were present but did not try to intervene should experience some consequences for their inaction, which directly enabled the bullying to occur. There needs to be group responsibility for acts of omission rather than commission or in other words for what they did not do.

    Early childhood professional can encourage a buddy system with the group of buddies recruited from the group of high social status children with a social conscience. Their role is to monitor the circumstances of the child with Aspergers Syndrome, to privately report any incident, to encourage the victim to report any incident, and to indicate the situation is not funny and not deserved. Such a monitor will help distinguish between friendly and non-friendly acts and to be in situations that adults find difficult to monitor. Successful inclusion has been shown to improve non-disabled students’ ability to empathize and relate to children with special needs (Attwood, 2004, Saylor & Leach, 2009).

    Justice is essential. Even if the child with Aspergers Syndrome had endured bullying all day long, if the educational setting has consequences for acts of aggression, then the child with Aspergers Syndrome must experience those consequences. However, it is essential that the students who precipitated the act of aggression also receive the same punishment (Attwood, 2004). Obviously, punishment must be modified if the school is failing to abide by accommodations in the Asperger Syndrome child's IEP which allows the violent outbursts to occur.

    Gray (2004) recommends creating a map of the Aspergers Syndrome child's world identifying where the child is vulnerable or safe from bullying. This can be acquired from the survey of bullying at the school (Olweus, et al., 1999). Appropriate levels of supervision can be deployed from staff knowledgeable in how to monitor and prevent bullying realizing that staff misses the vast majority of bullying that occurs (Pepler & Craig, 1999) and can misidentify the true victim (Nabuzoka, 2003). Other children witness the bullying and will need to be incorporated within the solution to bullying. Strategies need to be given to the victim to avoid potentially vulnerable situations especially if they seek for socially isolated sanctuaries that put the child at extreme risk for bullying. The best place to “hide” is in a group of children. Children with Aspergers Syndrome need to be welcomed into groups when predators are approaching a potential target. That welcome needs to be a part of the code of conduct on bullying. Other options can be the provision of activities in a supervised classroom (such as a club) during breaks, or an opportunity for like minded individuals to meet on the playground with a teacher and an activity (weather monitoring, etc) (Attwood, 2004).

    The advice to ignore the words and actions of the bully DO NOT WORK. Ignoring acts of bullying as a means of preventing such behavior is a myth that must not be perpetuated (Attwood, 2004).

    Victims must be given a response. The general advice is for such children to remain calm, maintain their self-esteem, and respond in an assertive and constructive way. The first two are hard for an Aspergers Syndrome child to do. However, self-talk strategies can be used to maintain self-control. Gray (2004) recommends the creation of one simple spoken response that is true and used consistently. “I don't deserve this”, “stop it”, and “I don't like that, stop it” are examples (Attwood, 2004, McEachern, et al., ).

    It is advisable to avoid telling a lie (“I don't care”) because that will be exceptionally difficult for an Aspergers Syndrome child to do. Another response to avoid is advice to respond with humor. Aspergers Syndrome children have immense difficulty creating humor in such a situation. If the child is unsure if the teasing is as a friend or not, the Aspergers Syndrome child should ask for clarification (Attwood, 2004).

    Strategies to explore why the bullying is occurring to a particular child should be appropriate for children who have difficulty understanding thoughts and motivations. Attwood (2004) recommends two strategies developed by Gray (1998). First is comic strip conversations (drawing the event with simple pictures with colors representing emotions) which can be used to discover and explain the thoughts and feelings of each participant in the incident and the second is social stories (reading a story that is similar to the incident).

    It is important to examine the range of current responses used by the victim, to reinforce the appropriate strategies and to jointly discover new responses. Ignoring bullying doesn't work. Several attempts to tell bully to stop failed. The victim may then lash out as this is the only effective way of getting the bullying to stop. However, the bully might not have perceived the typical warning signs of having gone too far (Aspergers Syndrome children rarely show emotion) so when they perform the act that becomes “the last straw”, they may not be prepared for the ferocity of response. Unfortunately, the response might have been what the bully wanted so the bully can appear the virtuous victim or to manipulate a situation to their advantage (Attwood, 2004).

    Stories of bullied children responding appropriately to acts of bullying to serve as a model for the victim can be given to the Aspergers Syndrome child. This approach has been referred to as bibliotherapy. Obviously, the stories must encourage appropriate and current responses to bullying. Two such programs are cited from Gray (2004) and Heinrichs (2003) (Attwood, 2004).

    Parents are essential members of the team approach to reducing bullying. They need to know the policies and programs available and be active participants in encouraging specific response strategies. Parents also have the role in encouraging their child to have the confidence and ability to disclose their experiences as a target, and to talk to a friend, teacher, parent, or counselor (Attwood, 2004, Olweus, et al., 1999). Enrollment in a martial arts program that teaches how to remain calm and escape particular holds should be encouraged rather than to injure or disable (Attwood, 2004).


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    Olweus, D., Limber, S., & Mihalic, S.F. (1999) Blueprints for violence prevention, book nine: Bullying prevention program. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

    O’Moore, A.M. & Hillery, B. (1989). Bullying in Dublin schools. Irish Journal of Psychology, 10, 426-441.

    Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (1999) What should we do about bullying: research into practice. Peacebuilder, 2,9-10.

    Pivik, J., McComas, J. & LaFlamme, M (2002) Barriers and facilitators to inclusion education. Exceptional Children. 69, 97-107.

    Reid, K. (1990). Bullying and persistent school absenteeism. In D.P. Tattum & D.A. Lane (Eds.), Bullying in schools (pp. 89-94). Stoke-on-Trent, England: Trentham Books.

    Rigby, K. & Slee, P. Suicidal ideation among adolescent school children, involvement in bully-victim problems, and perceived social support. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 29, 119-130.

    Roland E. & Munthe, E. (Eds). 1989. Bullying: An international perspective. London:Fulton Press.

    Ross, D.M. (2003). Childhood bullying, teasing, and violence: What school personnel, otherprofessionals, and parents can do. (2nd ed.) Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

    Ross, D.M., & Ross, S.A. (1988). Childhood pain: Current issues, research, and management. Baltimore, Maryland: Urban & Schwarzenburg.

    Sabornie, E. J. (1994). Social-affective characteristics in early adolescents identified as learning disabled and non-disabled. Learning Disability Quarterly, 17, 268-279.

    Saylor, C.F. & Leach, J.B. (2009) Perceived bullying and social support students accessing special inclusion programming. Journal of Devlopmental and Physical Disabilities. 21, 69-80.

    Sebastian, C., Blakemore, S-J, & Charman, T. (2009) Reactions to ostacism in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders. 39,1122-1130.

    Sourander, A., Helstela, I, Helenius, H., & Piha, J. Persistence of bullying from childhood to adolescence - a longitudinal 8-year follow-up study. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 873-881.

    Stephenson, P., & Smith, D. (1989). Bullying in the junior school. In D.P. Tattum & D.A. Lane (Eds.), Bullying in schools (pp. 45-57). Stoke-on-Trent, England: Trentham Books.

    Thompson, D., Whitney, I., & Smith, P.K. (1994) Bullying of children with special needs in mainstream schools. Support for Learning. 9(3), 103-106.

    Unnever, J.D. & Cornell, D.G. (2003). Bullying, Self-Control, and ADHD. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 81(2), 129-147.

    Van Cleave & Davis, M.M. (2006). Bullying and peer victimization among children with special health care needs. Pediatrics. 118(4), 1212-1219.

    Van der Wal, M.F., de Wit, C.A.M., & Hirasing, R.A. (2003) Psychosocial health among young victims and offenders of direct and indirect bullying. Pediatrics. 111(6), 1312-1317.

    Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S, Oldehinkel, A.J., De Winter, A.F., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2005) Bullying and victimization in elementary schools: a comparison of bullies, victims, bully/victims, and uninvolved preadolescents. Developmental Psychology. 41, 672-682.

    Voors, W. (2000) The Parent;s Book About Bullying: Changing the Course of Your Child's Life. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

    Vossekuil, B., Reddy, M., Borum, R., & Modzeleski, W. (2002) The final report and findings of the safe school initiative: implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, and US Secret Service.

    Weir, K. & Duveen, G. (1981). Further development and validation of the prosocial behavior questionnaire for use by teachers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 22, 357-374.

    White, S.W. & Roberson-Nay (2009) Anxiety, social deficits, and loneliness in youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders. 39, 1006-1013.

    Whitney, I., Smith, P.K., & Thompson, D. (1994). Bullying and children with special educational needs. In P.K. Smith & S. Sharp (Eds.), School bullying: Insights and perspectives. London: Routledge.

    Willard, N (2007) Cyberbullying and cyberthreats. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    Williams, K., Chambers, M., Logan, S., & Robinson, D. (1996) Association of common health symptoms with bullying in primary school children. British Medical Journal, 313, 17-19.

    Wolke, D., Woods, S., Bloomfield, L, & Karstadt, L. (2000) The association between direct and relational bullying and behavior problems among primary school children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 41, 989-1002.

    Yude, C., Goodman, R., & McConachie, H. (1998). Peer problems of children with hemiplegia in mainstream primary schools. Journal of Child Psychology, 39(4), 533-541.

    Zimmerman, F.J., Glew, G.M., Christakis, D.A., & Katon, W. (2005) Early cognitive stimulation, emotional support, and television watching as predictors of subsequent bullying among grade school children. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 159, 384-388.


    Students with disabilities are bullied and harassed in a greater proportion than the rest of the population. If bullying is a problem for your child, you need to immediately convene your child’s IEP team and devise strategies for the school to stop the bullying and strategies for your child to cope with and report future incidents.

    A bullied child who is bullied because of a special class -- such as gender,disability, race etc. -- may have a cause of action against the school under a Title IX construct that among other things turns on whether or not the school responded to the bullying with "deliberate indifference."

    There are cases under the IDEA and Section 504 essentially holding that a school environment that is not safe because of bullying is not an "appropriate" placement - entitling kids to out of district placements, compensatory education services, etc.

    Indiana has enacted laws to address bullying of students of typical and special education students:

    20-33-8-0.2 Bullying

    Chapter 8. Student Discipline

    Sec. 0.2. As used in this chapter, "bullying" means overt, repeated acts or gestures, including:

    (1) verbal or written communications transmitted;

    (2) physical acts committed; or

    (3) any other behaviors committed; by a student or group of students against another student with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate, or harm the other student.

    IC 20-33-8-13.5 Discipline rules prohibiting bullying required

    Chapter 8. Student Discipline

    Sec. 13.5. (a) Discipline rules adopted by the governing body of a school corporation under section 12 of this chapter must:

    (1) prohibit bullying; and

    (2) include provisions concerning education, parental involvement, reporting, investigation, and intervention.

    (b) The discipline rules described in subsection (a) must apply when a student is:

    (1) on school grounds immediately before or during school hours, immediately after school hours, or at any other time when the school is being used by a school group;

    (2) off school grounds at a school activity, function, or event;

    (3) traveling to or from school or a school activity, function, or event; or

    (4) using property or equipment provided by the school.

    (c) This section may not be construed to give rise to a cause of action against a person or school corporation based on an allegation of noncompliance with this section. Noncompliance with this section may not be used as evidence against a school corporation in a cause of action.

    IC 5-2-10.1-11 School safety specialist training and certification program

    Chapter 10.1. Indiana Safe Schools Fund

    Sec. 11. (a) The school safety specialist training and certification program is established.

    (b) The school safety specialist training program shall provide:

    (1) annual training sessions, which may be conducted through distance learning or at regional centers; and

    (2) information concerning best practices and available resources; for school safety specialists and county school safety commissions.

    (c) The department of education shall do the following:

    (1) Assemble an advisory group of school safety specialists from around the state to make recommendations concerning the curriculum and standards for school safety specialist training.

    (2) Develop an appropriate curriculum and the standards for the school safety specialist training and certification program. The department of education may consult with national school safety experts in developing the curriculum and standards. The curriculum developed under this subdivision must include training in identifying, preventing, and intervening in bullying.

    (3) Administer the school safety specialist training program and notify the institute of candidates for certification who have successfully completed the training program.

    (d) The institute shall do the following:

    (1) Establish a school safety specialist certificate.

    (2) Review the qualifications of each candidate for certification named by the department of education.

    (3) Present a certificate to each school safety specialist that the institute determines to be eligible for certification.


    The U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York allowed a mother to move forward with her claim that the Hyde Park Central School District intentionally discriminated against her son's developmental disorder and dyslexia. K.M. ex rel. D.G. v. Hyde Park Central Sch. Dist., 44 IDELR 37 (S.D.N.Y. 2005). The court ruled that the district could be liable under Title II and Section 504 for its alleged failure to address peer-to-peer disability-based harassment among its students.

    Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 provides in relevant part:
    No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...
    20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).  Title IX will apply to most Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in each State because of receipt of Federal financial assistance in some form.  Such recipients may be liable for damages under Title IX for student-on-student sexual harassment where the victim can demonstrate the following three elements:

    1. The sexual harassment was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it could be said to deprive the plaintiff of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school;

    2. The funding recipient had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment; and

    3.  The funding recipient was deliberately indifferent to the harassment.
    Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629, 653, 119 S. Ct. 1661 (1999).  Some courts have held that a single occurrence may give rise to a finding of a hostile environment within the context of Title IX.  See Vance v. Spencer County Public School, 231 F.3d 253, 259 (6th Cir. 2000); Doe v. School Admin. Dist. No. 19, 66 F.Supp.2d 57, 62 (D. Me. 1999). 

    Dane Patterson suffered extraordinary bullying, threats, and abuse (both verbal and physical) throughout much of middle school and through his freshman year of high school.  He was teased, called names, pushed and shoved by other students, taunted by a teacher, and slapped. His locker was repeatedly vandalized.  His clothes were urinated upon and his shoes thrown in the toilet.   He was also sexually assaulted in a locker room incident.  Not surprising, he was distraught and became withdrawn, at one time eating his lunch in the band room to escape his tormentors.  The abuse he suffered from sixth grade through his ninth grade year is detailed in the Slip Opinion at 2-7.

    School officials were aware of Dane’s struggles.  In the 7th grade, when taunting and bullying by other students was a daily occurrence, the principal offered to mentor Dane through his difficulties.  Id. at 2.  Near the end of his 7th grade year, he was referred for an evaluation to determine whether he was eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400.  He was found to be “emotionally impaired” under the IDEA and Michigan law.  An Individualized Education Program (IEP) was developed and implemented for Dane.  One of the benefits was his access to Ted Adams, his resource room teacher.  With Adams’ assistance, the 8th grade was a “good year.”  Id. at 4. 
    However, when Dane entered high school the following school year, the taunting and bullying began anew.  At the beginning of the school year, Dane did not have Adams as a resource because Adams was a middle-school teacher.  Dane did complain to the school counselor, who often interceded on his behalf with the students who taunted or bullied him.  After the school counselor spoke to the offending students, the students did not bother Dane thereafter.  The school investigated other incidents involving Dane and administered disciplinary measures when the perpetrators could be identified.  No discipline was meted out where school officials could not ascertain who vandalized Dane’s locker or his personal items.  Adams, although a middle-school teacher, assumed his previous role with Dane, although on a more limited basis.   The sexual assault by another student occurred near the end of Dane’s freshman year.  The school expelled the student who assaulted Dane and punished another student who aided in the assault.  The school cooperated with law enforcement when the assault was later investigated at the instigation of Dane’s family.  Id. at 4-7, 18.

    Dane did not return to the high school after the assault in the locker room.  He completed his secondary education through off-site services and college placement courses.  He now attends college.  Id. at 7. 

    Dane’s parents sued the school district and its superintendent, asserting claims under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The Defendants moved for summary judgment, which the federal district court granted. 

    Severe, Pervasive, and Objectively Offensive Conduct

    The district court had little difficulty in determining that Dane satisfied the first element in the Davis analysis.  The student-on-student harassment was of a sexual nature; was severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive; and adversely impacted or denied Dane’s access to educational opportunities or benefits through the public school.  The persistent name-calling, taunting, bullying, verbal and physical abuse, and, ultimately, the sexual assault were unequivocally offensive or often sexual in nature.  The harassment was lengthy and prolonged (his 7th and 9th grade years).  The culminating event–the sexual assault–resulted in his not returning to the high school.  Id. at 10-12.

    Notice Requirement 

    There is no dispute that the bullying, taunting, name-calling, vandalizing of personal property, and other activities, most of which were of a sexual nature, had been reported to school personnel.  School officials do not deny that they had actual knowledge of the incidents of sexual harassment.  Id. at 12-13.

    Deliberate Indifference 

    Plaintiffs, however, were unable to prove the third element: that the school district was deliberately indifferent to the harassment.  The response of school personnel to Dane’s complaints were not “clearly unreasonable.”  Id. at 13-14.  The district court noted that “[t]he Supreme Court has stated that when discrimination has been determined to occur (such as when sexual harassment occurs), the responsible party has a duty to take reasonable, timely, age-appropriate, and effective corrective action.  See Gebser v. Lago Vista Ind. Sch. Dist., 524 U.S. 274, 288, 118 S. Ct. 1989 (1998) [school district was not deliberately indifferent to harassment arising from teacher-student sexual relationship as school district had no notice].  When a school district has knowledge that its remedial action is inadequate and ineffective, it is required to take reasonable action in light of these circumstances to eliminate the behavior.”  Id. at 14.

    It is clear that deliberate indifference exists if a district’s responses are so inadequate that students undergo harassment or are made more vulnerable to it as a result of the district’s responses. [Citations omitted.]  In the instant case, the Court finds that administrators at Hudson Area Schools repeatedly took adequate and effective remedial action reasonably calculated to end harassment, eliminate the hostile environment and prevent harassment from occurring again.  The Court also concludes that, as a matter of law, Defendants’ responses were not clearly unreasonable in light of known circumstances.Id. at 14-15.

    The judge noted that the school responded to each complaint and, where a perpetrator could be identified, imposed student-specific discipline or intervention that was effective, at least in the sense that the previously offending students no longer engaged in the harassment or were otherwise prevented from doing so through expulsion.  Id. at 15. 

    The district court also disagreed with the Plaintiffs that the school allowed a known environment of sexual harassment to permeate the school district and failed to respond to it.  In addition to the specific interventions undertaken in response to Dane’s complaints, the court detailed the school’s attempts to address such activities: it adopted a policy prohibiting harassment, including sexual harassment; it brought in speakers to address character development; it initiated programs for students (one was for sexual harassment and bullying; another involved dating, bullying, and peer pressure; still another involved mentoring and peer mediation); it established policies for supervision of hallways, lunchrooms, and locker rooms, with school personnel trained to implement these policies; and it informed students of policies on acceptable student conduct, including the student code of conduct, which has also been incorporated into the Health class curriculum and specifically addresses harassment and bullying.  Id. at 15-18. 

    “While Defendants’ actions may not be exactly what Plaintiffs desired and while their actions may not have yielded the results Plaintiffs hoped for, applicable law provides that the Plaintiffs do not have a right to dictate the actions Defendants take.”  Id. at 18-19.  The standard is whether the school officials acted “clearly unreasonable in light of known circumstances.”  Id. at 19.  The district court found the school did not act in a clearly unreasonable fashion or with deliberate indifference either generally within the school district or specifically with regard to Dane.  Id

    The district court judge also rejected The Equal Protection claim.  The Equal Protection Clause requires public institutions to treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner.  However, in this case, the Plaintiffs have not identified any “similarly situated individual” much less demonstrated disparate treatment.  Id. at22.

    The Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment was granted.  The Plaintiffs’ complaint was dismissed with prejudice.  Id.

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  • Child Abuse Reporting

    In Texas:

    The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) offers a central location to report:

    • child abuse and neglect,
    • elderly or adults with disabilities abuse, neglect, or exploitation,
    • abuse of children in licensed child-care facilities or treatment centers for the entire State of Texas,
    • abuse of clients served by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) or Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) employees in State Hospitals or State Schools.

    The law requires any person who believes that a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited to report the circumstances to DFPS. A person making a report is immune from civil or criminal liability provided they make the report in good faith, and the name of the person making the report is kept confidential. Any person suspecting abuse and not reporting it can be held liable for a Class B misdemeanor. Time frames for investigating reports are based on severity of allegations. Reporting suspected child abuse makes it possible for a family to get help.

    Two Ways to Report Abuse in Texas

    1-800-252-5400 – Call our Abuse Hotline toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, nationwide.

    Make your report through our secure web site and you will receive a response within 24 hours.

    If a school employee sees unexplained injuries to a child, he or she is required to report those injuries to child-protection officials. Most of the time the system works as it should to protect children. However, nationwide schools have sometimes used the child protection reporting system to harass parents who zealously advocate for their legal children’s rights.

    False Child Abuse Reporting laws in Indiana

    Indiana Statute: § 31-33-22-1; § 31-33-22-3(a)-(b)

    Failure to Report

    Standard: Knowingly
    Penalty: Class B misdemeanor
    Staff member of a medical or other institution, school, facility, or agency: Class B misdemeanor penalty imposed in addition to above.
  • False Reporting

    Standard: Intentionally
    Penalty: Class A misdemeanor: liable for actual damages and possibly punitive damages. Class D felony, if there is a prior conviction

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  • Complaints

    Experienced parent advocate Pat Howey of West Point, Indiana, writes on the subject of the efficacy of filing complaints in special education matters in Indiana.

    She writes: I rarely file complaints and even more rarely advise parents to file complaints. Why? Because in Indiana, there is no legitimate remedy, even when the school is found to be in violation.

    I have had countless parents and advocates call me to excitedly tell me that they had "won" a complaint. My usual response is, what did you "get"? After a few seconds of silence, they say that the school has been ordered to change what they are doing and provide documentation to the state that they have completed the change.

    If the complaint involved a violation that involved a service, such as failure to provide an extended school year or failure to provide a related service that is already in the child's IEP, the state very, very, rarely orders that it be provided. The state orders the school to convene an IEP team meeting to determine whether its violation caused the child a denial of FAPE. If so, then the IEP team is ordered to provide an appropriate amount of compensatory education.

    So, what the parents have achieved is this:

    1. The school cleans up its act -- on paper -- at the order of the state. In reality, nothing ever changes, because the school now knows what the state requires in the way of documentation. Therefore, it is rare that any other parent will ever "win" this issue again, because the parent who filed the complaint has taught the school what it needs to do in order to cover up what it is doing in practice. The state looks at the school's documentation, not its actual practices. (Remember, if it wasn't written down, it didn't happen. However, if it was written down, it did happen, even if it didn't.)
    2. The parent "wins" another IEP team meeting. Because the parent is already entitled to convene an IEP meeting at almost any time, they have really not "won" anything. The state has given them what they are already entitled to have.
    3. It is likely that the parent has already been to numerous IEP team meetings unsuccessfully attempting to resolve the issue that caused the complaint to be filed to begin with. So, in this case, what the parent has "won" is another case conference that the school will invite even more staff members to, and the school now knows how to document the meeting. If the complaint was about failure to provide a related service, you can be assured that the service provider will be invited to the meeting and that he or she will be instructed to find a reason why the child no longer needs that services. In that case, the child has not been deprived of FAPE and the team will find no need to provide compensatory educational services.
    4. Last and most important of all, if you file a complaint, you will more than likely either lose the ability to ever bring that same issue before a hearing officer in a hearing and if you "lose" the complaint, the hearing officer will most likely defer to the findings of the complaint investigator.

    The moral of this story is, before you file a complaint, be very, very certain that you will not EVER want to file for a hearing on the same issue. But even more importantly, examine closely what you could possibly "win" if you win the complaint. If your state offers no real remedy, then you may wish to consult an attorney before taking any action. Likewise, advocates should be very, very careful before filing a complaint on behalf of a parent, as you may be jeopardizing their future rights and remedies.

    I use the state complaint system rarely and I tend to choose carefully those occasions when I utilize it.

    First, the issue must be a direct violation of sped law. Second, I have to have direct knowledge and/or evidence of the violation (no “He said, she said” issues). Third, the violation has to be a “gimmee”. In other words, the evidence I send with the complaint proves on its face that there is a clear violation.

    For example, I filed a complaint in 1998, alleging that a superintendent and assistant superintendent released personally identifiable information to the media about a special education student. Along with the text of the complaint, I submitted newspaper articles and a copy of the television station’s website showing the information the identified the special education student.

    The complaint investigator ruled on violations for each issue I had submitted. (Incidentally, this complaint was filed after the child had graduated from high school, and it identified an issue from the child’s 10th grade year. However, since the child’s parent had become aware of the violation only after the child had graduated, I asked that timelines be tolled and the investigator granted this.

    I prepare a complaint with the same care I take in filing a due process hearing request. I submit facts, violations of law, proposed conclusions, as well as a proposed resolution. In other words, I try to do as much work for the complaint investigator as possible, understanding that bureaucrats like easy solutions. I also submit supplementary information, IEPs, evaluation reports, tapes of IEP meetings, etc., because then I know that the investigator has all pertinent information and the paperwork has not been altered or manufactured in any way.

    I also file complaints when there is an issue that I think can be or needs to be resolved immediately if a complaint is filed. I have always suspected – in Indiana, anyway -- that when a complaint is filed and it appears on its face to be clearly a violation or violations – that the first phone call the investigator makes is to the district, telling them to clean up its act or it risks being found in violation.

    I suspect this because so often, when a clear violation complaint is filed, the school immediately cleans up its act. I filed a complaint on one occasion, where a student was not going to be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies with his classmates for the sole reason that he had a disability. Graduation was in two weeks and an IEP meeting or hearing was out of the question.

    By the time either had been held, the issue would have been moot, because the ceremony would have been over and done with. We filed a complaint. I submitted a couple of OCR investigations, and lo and behold, within a few days after filing the complaint, mom called and said the school had “changed its mind” and would “graciously allow” her son to go through the ceremony with his classmates. We withdrew the complaint.

    Last, I am prepared to withdraw the complaint if and when the district comes into compliance before the complaint investigation report is delivered OR if a complaint investigator is assigned who is known to be “school friendly”. In my opinion, there is no reason to take a chance on a complaint investigator finding a reason to rule against a student in a complaint investigation if we have achieved what we desired.

    So, I always withdraw the complaint once I have received in writing the school’s promise to comply with the alleged violation we have charged. If the school fails to comply, we can always file another complaint or a hearing. If I do not withdraw the complaint investigation and no violation is found, I have harmed the parent’s right – in Indiana, at any rate – of bringing up that same issue in a due process hearing.

    Pat Howey

    When you are wrestling with a gorilla, you don't stop when you are tired; you stop when the gorilla is tired. -- Robert Strauss

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  • OCR Complaints

    OCR is the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education.

    The complaint form is online (and easy to do).
    http://www.ed. gov/about/ offices/list/ ocr/complaintint ro.html

    • OCR enforces the following laws: • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin;
    • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex;
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability;
    • Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age;
    • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability;
    • Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which prohibits denial of access to or other discrimination against the Boy Scouts or other Title 36 U.S.C. youth groups in public elementary schools, public secondary schools, local education agencies, and state education agencies that have a designated open forum or limited public forum.

    Note: Retaliation claims are tough, as there are 5 different elements must be met.

    OCR describes it as follows:

    "A prima facie case of retaliation is made by showing that: 1) an individual engaged in a protected activity, i.e., asserted or defended a right or privilege secured by the laws OCR enforces, or was closely associated with someone who engaged in a protected activity; 2) the recipient was aware of the protected activity; 3) the recipient took adverse action against the individual contemporaneous with or subsequent to the adverse action; and 4) there was a causal relationship between the adverse action and the individual's participation in the protected activity, i.e., an adverse action followed the participation in the protected activity within a period of time and under such circumstances that a retaliatory motivation can be inferred. 5. Once a prima facie case has been established, the burden shifts to the recipient to articulate a non-retaliatory reason for its action. The evidence is then analyzed to determine whether the recipient's proffered reasons are a pretext for retaliation."

    A decision, Susan Barker vs. Riverside County Office of Education, (9th Cir., 10/23/09), reversed a federal district court's decision to dismiss the teacher's retaliation suit on the grounds that she lacked standing under Section 504 and the ADA. The 9th Circuit held that a teacher that complains to her administrators and files a complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights for violations of the students' rights is protected from harassment and retaliation under both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. After Barker complained to supervisors that the special education services provided to students with disabilities at her school violated the special education laws, and subsequently filed a complaint on behalf of her students with OCR for violations of Section 504, she was allegedly subjected to various acts of intimidation including failure to respond to her emails and calls, excluding her from important meetings, changing her to work sites further from her home, reducing her workload and refusing to allow her to fill in for other staff. Based on the treatment she was receiving, Barker resigned, but alleged that she was "constructively discharged." Notably, on June 16, 2006, the Office for Civil Rights "determined that the preponderance of the evidence showed that....(the school system) retaliated against Barker in violation of Section 504 and Title II...." Holding that Barker had standing to sue under Section 504, the court wrote, "empathetic people who teach and interact frequently with the disabled are the most likely to recognize their treatment and to advocate on their behalf." The court also found that her actions were protected under the anti-retaliation provisions of Title II of the ADA. The case was remanded to the district court to allow her to go forward in attempting to prove the underlying allegations in her complaint.

    This decision is a welcome victory affirming the right of school employees to speak out when they believe that the rights of children with disabilities are being violated. Hopefully, it will encourage other school staff that are aware of serious problems in relation to the treatment of children with disabilities to bring these complaints to their school administrators or to the OCR.

    Copies of the decision can be downloaded at:

    Download the "How to File an OCR Complaint" PDF document

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  • Open Records

    Texas Open Records Laws

    Which agencies are covered by the open records laws?

    All governmental bodies are subject to the open records laws. This includes all committees, commissions, boards and agencies created by government.  The basis for this is that the government works for the people, not the other way around.

    In fact, if an entity receives or spends any public funds, it is subject to the open records laws.

    In Texas, the open records laws are found in Section 552 of the Texas Government Code.

    The law in Texas says: "Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees."

    "The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."

    "The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

    How do I request these records in Texas?

    Put the request in writing. A sample request might say: "I am making a request for records under the Texas Public Information Act, Section 552 of the Texas Government Code.   This law requires that the "Officer for Public Records shall promptly product such information for inspection or duplication, or both, in the offices of the governmental body." I request that the following records be made available to me: XXXXX."

    Can I be forced to pay a fee for the records?

    Yes, but government cannot use the fees as a means to discourage people from asking for information. If the cost is more than $40 for the copies, you are entitled to an itemized bill.

    If the government decides that it's in the public's best interest to release the records, the copy fees can be waived.



    Indiana Open Records Laws


    The law requires that all government agencies “exist only to aid in the conduct of the business of the people of this state.” Official actions of public agencies must be conducted in public, unless allowed to do otherwise by narrow exceptions in the law.



    Official action is when a majority of a government agency gathers and receives information, deliberates, makes recommendations, establishes policy or makes decisions.



    Local school boards can meet privately, not publicly, only if they plan to discuss:


    • Strategy on collective bargaining, a pending legal matter or buying land.
    • The alleged misconduct of an employee, student or contractor if the board is trying to decide how to react to or change the person’s status or an employee’s job performance evaluation.
    • School safety or security.
    • Reviewing applications or receiving information on prospective candidates for jobs.
    • Records that must be kept confidential under federal or state law, such as student educational files.
    • An individual student’s abilities, performance and behavior before placement in a program or designation.
    • Discussion of appointment of a new school board member.
    • Training the board with an outside consultant.


    First a little history: The public access counselor’s office was established in 1999 by the General Assembly to help the public and government agencies understand the Indiana Open Door Law and the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.


    The Open Door Law lets people attend meetings of the governing bodies of public agencies and lets in sunshine on governmental activities. The Access to Public Records Act allows access to public documents.


    Most disputes arise over the definition of public records and meetings, and the access office has a 48-page handbook on its Web site with specifics of the laws and frequently asked questions.



  • Open records/access case

     Journalists are often those leading the fight for access to government records. Casting a little sunshine on government activities is often the best way to cure corruption and unfairness.

    In a recent case that affects the availability of records to which citizens would have access, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided that a weekly newspaper (The Knightstown Banner) had a right to see details of a settlement that the town of Knightsville  reached with a former employee, instead of hiding behind a statement that the details of the settlement were confidential. (See Knightstown Banner LLC v. Town of Knightstown, Governmental Insurance Managers Inc. and Governmental Interinsurance Exchange, (Ind. Ct. App. Dec. 14, 2005, case number 33A04-0504-C-200).

    The court stated, “The APRA (Indiana Access to Public Records Act) codified at Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1 et seq., allows any person to inspect and copy the records of any public agency. …” It continued, “The overarching question of whether the settlement agreement drafted by an attorney retained by a public agency’s insurance company can be considered a public record, and therefore be subject to the requirements of APRA … compels us to interpret the relevant provisions of the statute. …” It said, “Based on the evidence before us, we conclude that the settlement agreement created by an attorney retained by a public agency’s insurance company to represent the public authority can be considered a public record, and therefore by subject to the requirements of APRA. … (D)elegating the responsibilities of creating, receiving, and retaining the settlement agreement to outside counsel does not thereby remove the document from the statute’s definition of public document.”

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  • School Accountability

    "If something exists, it exists in some amount. If it exists in some amount, then it is capable of being measured."

    Rene Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, 1644

    Your child’s educational success (or lack of success) can be measured. There are many different ways to measure. This handout is to give you some ideas about how your child’s educational progress can be measured. The law requires objective measurement.

    Four Common Ways to Measure Educational Success

    Age equivalent - how does my child compare to others his age?

    Grade equivalent - how does my child compare to other children in the same grade?

    Standard scores - standard deviations - In most cases the mean is 100 and the SD = 15.

    In subtests, the mean is usually 10 and the SD = 3.

    Percentile ranks - how does my child compare against other children in terms of rank?

    Norm Referenced and Criterion Referenced Tests.

    Norm - compared to a group of other children who have similar characteristics

    Criterion - compared to some preset determined criteria.

    Subtest Scores - Most tests use subtests scores with a mean of 10 and a standard deviation of 3. A subtest score of 10 is at the 50% level. A subtest score of 7 would be at 16% and a subtest score of 13 would be at 84%.




    Information -- 10

    Picture Completion -- 6

    Similarities -- 16

    Coding -- 4

    Arithmetic -- 11

    Picture Arrangement -- 10

    Vocabulary -- 13

    Block Design -- 12

    Comprehension -- 12

    Object Assembly -- 7

    (Digit Span) -- 8

    (Symbol search ) -- 6

    VERBAL IQ = 114; PERFORMANCE IQ = 86; FULL SCALE IQ = 101; MEAN = 10

    What do the subtests mean?

    Information: Factual knowledge, long term memory, recall.

    Similarities: Abstract reasoning, verbal categories, concepts.

    Arithmetic: Attention and concentration; numerical reasoning.

    Vocabulary: Language development, word knowledge, verbal fluency.

    Comprehension: Social and practical judgment, common sense.

    Digit Span: Short term auditory memory, concentration.

    Picture Completion: Alertness to detail, visual discrimination.

    Coding: Visual motor coordination, speed, concentration.

    Picture Arrangement: Planning, logical thinking, social knowledge.

    Block Design: Spatial analysis, abstract visual problem-solving.

    Object Assembly: Visual analysis and construction of objects.

    Symbol Search: Visual motor quickness, concentration, persistence.

    Mazes: Fine motor coordination, planning, following directions.

    Why is a history of IQ tests important?

    Children who have dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities and who are not remediated will demonstrate a reduced level of "IQ." This is NOT because the child has become less intelligent over the years. It IS because the child has not been remediated and thus cannot compete with "normal" children who have. Some children cannot demonstrate their intelligence on traditional IQ tests and an experienced practitioner will need to examine the child.

    Sample IQ of Child Before and After Remediation - Jerry

    • Preschool WPPSI: 126 Full Scale IQ. (Age 4)
    • WISC-R: 66 Full Scale IQ (Age 10)
    • Stanford-Binet IQ: 85 Full Scale IQ (Age 12)

    Practitioner’s View: Jerry is of above average intelligence (Age 14)

    • WISC-III: 135 Full Scale IQ (Age 18) (Post Remediation)

    Achievement Testing: Woodcock Johnson, Graduation Testing, Gray Oral, Key Math, etc.

    • Compare child’s achievement with child’s intellect.
    • Compare child’s achievement one year with child’s achievement in following year.

    Sample Woodcock Johnson

    • Fall 1998: Basic reading: Grade Equivalent 3.2
    • Spring 1999: Basic reading: Grade Equivalent 3.4
    • Fall 1998: Math calculations: 85 SS
    • Spring 1999: Math calculations: 90 SS

    Graduation Tests.

    What is the percentile rank requirement for graduation (some districts are higher then state requirement)?

    How did my child do compared to children of same age, grade?

    How did my child do on graduation testing compared to other individualized testing?



    Brantley v. ISD 625 (St. Paul), 26 IDELR 839 (D. Ct. MN April 1997): If IEP does not include CLOP, address all needs, identify specifically all services to be provided, and appropriate goals and objectives, or if IEP is "vague", then child is denied FAPE:

    Child awarded two years of compensatory education because according to Court:

    The Hearing Officer pointed to several deficiencies in 1992 IEP, and in his 1993 and 1994 IEPs. Minnesota Rule 3525.2900, subpart 3, specifies that several items that a school district must address in a student's IEP. Several of the required items were either not addressed or not clearly explained in Byron's IEPs. For example, the 1992 IEP does not include Byron's current level of performance in each area, nor addressed all the needs identified by the IEP Team process. It also only very generally describes his special education needs, the special services to be provided, and the appropriate goals and objectives. Defendant asserts that Byron's 1992 IEP was adequate, was rejected by the HRO. Defendant's argument is not supported by the record. The HRO reviewed Byron's 1992, 1993, and 1994 IEPs and concluded that all three were procedurally deficient and that while the 1994 IEP came closer to meeting procedural requirements, it failed to satisfy substantive requirements. In particular, the HRO observed that the annual goal for reading in the 1994 IEP was only four months ahead of the goal set two years earlier. The HRO also found that the special education needs were vague... the Court finds that Byron was denied a FAPE for the 1992-93 and 1993-94 school years.

    Independent School District No. 2310, 29 IDELR 330 (SEA 1998): District’s failure to provide written periodic reviews to keep parent informed of child’s progress on IEP violated FAPE.

    Student v. ISD 318, 24 IDELR 1096, (SEA MN 1996 ), Where child with autism was provided a trivial education and did not progress under school’s approach, parent’s methodology/curriculum ordered.

    Hoekstra v. ISD 283, 22 IDELR 47 (SEA 1994): District’s failure to write measurable goals and objectives violates child’s right to FAPE. IEP did not contain properly written goals which indicated starting and ending points for targeted skills, nor was there any description of how progress should be made or measured. Lack of objectives precluded measurement of goal.


    Under both caselaw and the IDEA ‘97, parents MUST:

    Inform a school at an IEP meeting and preferably in writing of any intent to withdraw the child and provide the child unilaterally obtained services if reimbursement of same is going to be sought and MUST request a due process hearing if child is no longer going to be in the school. P.T. v. ISD 113, 29 IDELR 13, (Sept. 1998, D. CT. MN) Give the school district an opportunity to "correct" the program the school is offering to the child before moving the child to a unilateral placement if the parent will be seeking reimbursement.


    Under both caselaw and IDEA ‘97, parents SHOULD ask the District in writing what curriculum or program is being used, asked if child is accessing the general curriculum for those subjects, ask to see work samples and books used.

    Cases Outside MN:

    Carter v. Florence County, 510 U.S. 7 (1993)- awarding reimbursement for private school which provided Orton-Gillingham for dyslexic student.

    Gerstmyer v. Howard County, 850 F. Supp. 361, 20 IDELR 1327 (D. MN 1994) - awarding private school reimbursement for dyslexic child.

    Evans v. Board of Educ. of Rhinebeck, 930 F. Supp. 83, 24 IDELR 338 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)-

    Where IEP did not "adequately set forth strategies for evaluating progress" and had "broad, generic objectives" and "vague, subjective methods for monitoring" child’s progress, FAPE was denied. IEPs recanted "teacher observation" and 80% success." Reimbursement awarded.

    Cases In MN:

    E.S. v. ISD 196, (8th Cir. 1998) - Dyslexic child who was progressing from grade to grade despite low abilities in reading and writing who was provided Orton-Gillingham over summer by school district not entitled to 1:1 Orton-Gillingham during school year. Case limited to PRE-IDEA 1997.

    Student v. ISD -- (MN 1997) - Dyslexic child to be provided 1:1 Orton-Gillingham for reading, and writing at public school.


    IDEA ‘97 requires children with disabilities to have "access" to general curriculum and holds schools to show forth "results" oriented education.

    Query: What does this mean?

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