Bullying, Discipline, & Confidentiality: Who’s the Victim?

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A special education teacher asked a question about a student’s right to confidentiality after being disciplined by the school.

It is a good example of how changing the facts in a particular situation can give you a clearer perspective on the issue.

“…a child with disabilities was a victim of bullies. How much is too much information to share with another parent regarding other students..before turning the bullies into victims?”

Here’s the complete scenario:

We had a situation this year with a child with disabilities who was a victim of bullies. The bullies faced consequences including parents being called.

The parent of the child with disabilities wanted to know who the bullies were, what consequences were given, and what the meeting entailed with the parents of the bullies. Is this allowed? It felt like the bullies were now being turned into victims.

We have a clear and zero policy in our school regarding bullies. I was satisfied with the consequences given. How much is too much information to share with another parent regarding other students?

Let’s change the facts in this case. The child with disabilities who was bullied is your child. What’s your perspective, now?

  • It is your child who attended a summer camp and was severely beaten up and hospitalized by another camper.

Camp officials decline to release info about the aggressor and what steps, if any, were taken.

What is your position as the parent?

Change the facts again:

  • Your child attends a private school and was assaulted by another child at the school and is now in the hospital.

You want to press charges against the aggressor, but the private school cites confidentiality and refuses to release any information about the aggressor, including his identity.

Change the facts again:

  • Your child was assaulted at the local mall and local mall security were involved.

Should you be notified?

In those scenarios and with a public school, when any entity refuses to release information to a parent, what does the parent automatically assume? They assume that the other child is being protected, despite being the bully.

Parents have a right to know who did what to their child and what steps, if any, the school took to prevent a repetition of it. Anything less is viewed as a cover-up and opens school up to the appearance of a policy of “doing nothing” to protect children from bullies.

In Bullying, Confidentiality, & the Parents’ Need to Know, Pete and Pam answer questions about confidentiality and the parents’ need to have information about their child. Pam suggests a strategy to help the teacher understand the parent’s perceptions, concerns, and fears.

  1. Hi Pete and Pam,

    Can you provide the legal authority (case law or statute) for the statement, “Parents have a right to know who did what to their child and what steps, if any, the school took to prevent a repetition of it. Anything less is viewed as a cover-up and opens school up to the appearance of a policy of “doing nothing” to protect children from bullies.”? I am dealing with a situation in Colorado where a young student has made a credible death threat against other young students, and the district is unwilling to share any details of a safety plan or other steps it is taking to ensure the safety of the students who have been threatened.

  2. My child (Who has a 504 plan for an anxiety disorder) was severely assaulted by a student with an IEP Who’s LRE is a behavior program at the school. It was deemed that this student’s behavior was a manifestation of his disability because my child and the other aggressor had exchanged words the day prior. Can a case for manifestation be made when it’s a full 24 hours after the initial incident and the assault was initiated by the sped student without provocation? There were multiple witnesses including teachers and students.

    Also, am I entitled as a parent to know what disciplinary action was taken against this student that assaulted my son?

  3. I’m in the uncomfortable position of being the parent of the bully. My daughter is intensely distracted by another student (this is not the other student’s fault but a focus from my daughter) and therefore, sadly, has behaved toward the child in a manner that cannot be called anything less than bullying.

    Two questions: 1. Because of my daughter’s IEP, do we have rights to any of the above protection of confidentiality? Or do the other child’s parents get to know what discipline my daughter received?

    2. We are working on a new plan for behavior. We tend to still agree on inclusion in the classroom, but are we able to demand the other student be removed in order to keep my daughter from getting distracted?

    • My understanding is that the school might give the other parents general details on how their child will be protected or what consequences were given and that is right by the law as long as no medical or private information is shared. The IEP would be covered by that general policy. However, aside from mentioning IEP information, I think the policy in the article would still likely apply.

      As for removing the other child from the classroom, that may be something that depends on local laws and policies. You’re probably welcome to ask for a room change, but I don’t know if it could be guaranteed. Just as likely your daughter would be moved to a different classroom if separation was determined to be best. I daresay it would really depend on a “best for everyone” discussion.

  4. 6 year old intrusively and aggressively investigated for bullying by admin I complained to week prior for calling my kid a “lier” over reporting she was forced by 2 2nd graders to stand on toilet in order to pee. Post bully invest., my kid hysterically cried for days bc admin repeatedly called her a “lier” and “accused” of untrue things. Post questioning, kids called my kid “bad” a “bully” and said she’s “in trouble.” Parents called stating their kids reported being asked suggestive questions specifically about my child, effectively labeling her as a bully, imo. Complainant parents apologized to me, adamant they ONLY alleged “safety concerns” over very petty things (blowing raspberries, bumping, cat sounds, etc), thinking my kid might be learning disabled. Allegations unsubstantiated.

  5. What about the confidentiality during an investigation into allegations of bullying? How should a school go about interviewing 1st graders about one of their classmates alleged to have bullied? Should they specifically ask if so and so has bullied you or done anything bad to you?

  6. In high school, my younger brother, and myself to a slightly more involved extent, were bullied by a group of older students (one of whom was, and i am not joking, over six feet tall, and was round enough that he needed to get on the bus from the rear emergency exit, as he was completely incapable of fitting through the normal door)

    At one point, the large boy i mentioned, choked me unconscious, in front of a dozen students, a teacher who was 10 feet away (but saw and heard nothing) and a security Camera that mysteriously wasnt working during the 3.5 minutes i was being choked. When this bully punched my brother, i ‘flipped my lid’ and smashed him over the head with my backpack. I was suspended for 3 weeks. The bully, for 2 days.

  7. My son has been bullied on and off all school year by the same boy. I have went to the principal and the teachers the first couple of times. There was nothing that I seen that was done about it. The Bullying only got worse. And when I was going to go and talk to them again my son beg me not to because it only made the matter worse and the bullying was worse. So Yesterday May 7th 2018 my son was in the car rider line and this same little boy slap him across his face

  8. My son is in high school…they were working on a project that consisted of Popsicle sticks and hot glue…student 1 put hot glue on another student 2 arm… student 2 put hot glue on a stick and put it on student 1 neck and ripped it off,pulling the skin off…my son decided to put hot glue on a stick and put it on another student…this happened in the same class within 5-10 minutes apart…students 1 and 2 got 3 days Inn School Suspension and my son got 4 days suspension and charged with assault by the officer on duty…I am very confused about the discipline all 3 students received…Please hep me understand!

    • Kat even I am confused by why your son got four days suspension and an assault charge. What I would do is request a meeting with the principal, yourself, your son, the officer on duty and perhaps the classroom teacher. You need to get to the bottom of what is going on. I am curious about the assault charge how did that come about?

  9. My son has to be in his school it was ordered by a judge because of our cps we will be off but after star testing ….my son says he feels he failed reading test cause kids in class picking on him ….teacher is also making example of my son to class if he late or homework or anything really…my son just wants to keep the hitting inside he does not want me knowing or talking to anyone for fear of retaliation ike always and hes just hurting i hurting cps wont help casa wont help his aid litem wont help what do i do except keep documenting and recording phone calls and meetings and writing my own plans to see him through and give copies to everyone

  10. My 8 year old daughter was held against a slide by 2 boys, one of which was standing on her arm the other who was holding her legs straight preventing her from moving. Meanwhile another boy was punching her. I was informed of what happened by my daughters teacher after they went to the assistant principals office. After the teacher contacted me we went to the school and confronted the principal and assistant principal. The assistant principal insisted that it was an accident and that my daughter said it was an accident. My daughter and the teacher have confirmed the assistant principal was lying to us and that she knew the full story prior to our arrival, yet insisted that nothing had happened. This happened yesterday. So far today my daughter has been questioned twice by herself.

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