Thursday, March 31, 2011

Supreme Court of Ohio dismisses parents' bullying case; case continues in federal court

The Supreme Court of Ohio unanimously dismissed a school bullying case yesterday that had been sent to it from a federal court in Cleveland.

That suit was filed by the parents of a Mentor high school student who committed suicide. The parents allege in their complaint that their son had been bullied for months at school, including by a student who told him the day before his death, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself? Nobody would miss you." The parents allege that the student "endured harassment and bullying at school at the hands of numerous other students." He was also, according to the complaint, forced to endure "name-calling, teasing and verbal intimidation in one particular class and constant pushing, shoving and hitting both in class and in hallways of the high school. The name-calling was usually sexually themed."

The Supreme Court's dismissal of the case does not end the suit, however, which will now proceed in federal court.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"School Day Security and Anti-Bullying Act" introduced in Ohio House

Representative John Barnes, Jr. has introduced House Bill 116, or the "School Day Security and Anti-Bullying Act" for consideration by the Ohio House of Representatives. The proposed Act would require school districts to be more aggressive with their education efforts on anti-bullying policies.

Under current Ohio law, school districts are required to publish their bullying policy in the student handbook and include the policy in school employee training handbooks. Under this proposal, districts would be required to, twice in every school year, provide each student with age-appropriate instruction on the board's policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation, and bullying. The first instruction must be given toward the beginning of the school year and the second offered during the second semester. Additionally, the consequences for violations must be taught and an acknowledgment of receipt must be signed by the parent or guardian and returned to the school.

The bill does not change the definition of bullying under Ohio law, which defines that intimidation, harassment, or bullying as any of the following "(1) Any intentional written, verbal, or physical act that a student has exhibited toward another particular student more than once and the behavior both:

(a) Causes mental or physical harm to the other student;

(b) Is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for the other student.

(2) Violence within a dating relationship." R.C. 3313.666