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.

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Cathy M

I am wondering if there is anything more involved when the bully and the bullied both have disabilities. There is a case in one of our local schools where a child with disabilities is being assaulted regularly by another child who also has a disability. The school claims that they are “doing everything they can” but the parent of the child being assaulted said it is not keeping her child safe. And they are not telling her what disciplinary action is being taken. I suggested the mom may need to get a one on one aid for her child written into her IEP to keep her child safe. Can the parent request things like FBA’s for the child who is bullying hers?


I have a 12 yr old who has been bullied off and on since 4th grade. It never seems enough is done till MY son has had enough and tries to defend himself. When he did this just recently, he was suspended from school for 3 days. I asked the question. “for defending himself?” The answer was there is no tolerence for fighting period. So let me get this straight, I should tell my son, when you are getting beat up, lay there until they are finished and then get up and get help. I DON’T THINK SO! This has happened a few times this year , and I know this all goes on his school record. Now MY kid looks like a trouble maker. This system is really broken, along with my son’s self esteem.


I have this same problem with my 11 year old. Nothing ever happens until my son reacts to what is being done to him. I might add that it is consistently the same kids who are doing the bullying. It seems that the principal doesn’t want to implement the bullying policy because they don’t want to admit there is a problem and don’t want to be held to what they would have to do if they admit they have a bullying problem.


As a K-5 substitute teacher, I’ve had to deal with boys who have behavior plans for anger management. I’ve had several girls in the past who have targeted these boys, pushed their buttons verbally, and get off on watching these boys lose it and throw stuff. These same girls are horrified and belligerent when I write them up for bullying and have them escorted to the office. Usually the same response, with a badly-hidden smirk… I didn’t do anything, I didn’t touch him, sometimes lies about what they did or didn’t do. Thankfully, other kids step up and report what they saw. I document their names as witnesses, too. These girls just don’t think they’re bullies, since they didn’t hit anyone. And it’s horrifying to see this happening at so young an age.


I have had this happen to my son. He doesn’t have an anger problem, he has a mother who will not let anyone get away with harming him. He had a group of girls mad at him because the first time one of them verbally assaulted and insulted him, I reported it to the teacher, principal, anyone I could report it to and kept following up, insisting they get him away from the mean kids. So when the girl got in trouble for bullying him, though I don’t think the word bully was ever used. She really had it out for him. When she and her friends were overheard plotting to mess with him until he did something to get in trouble, more trouble for them. The thing that makes me believe they are not applying the bullying policy is that she does something to him every time they cross paths.


My grandson (which my husband & I have custody) has recently had an issue with beng bullied and he was suspended for 2 days. According to the school principal our grandson became the aggressor when after several attempts to notify school officials and his grandfather contacting the school about the issues, took issues in his own hands. The bully had been
approaching him and verbally abusing him and pushing him. The morning of the call my husband made to the school, it happened again and our grandson said some words to him and pushed him, tired of the threats, the bully then head locked him and started punching him. The young man was expelled I think, not sure, he had been in Alternative School for fighting prior to this. As I mentioned our grandson was given 2 days suspension. How does a parent deal with this type of situation?

Great article. Good to show the real perspective. Today everyone is afraid to speak up against tyranny. It seems that those who are special needs get it the worst. It’s our God given duty as parents and educators to stand up for the defenseless. And really not just the special needs kids. Punishment needs to be more severe for bullying. Do you really think that the parents of bullies are any different than their kids? What is calling them going to do. They allow this behavior. After a 1st or 2nd warning, the bullies need to be removed so that the other children can learn in peace and enjoy their schooltime. Society seems to allow and even encourage the ‘me me me’ attitude that all bullies have. It’s uncalled for and needs to be stopped. Christians stand up! Quit being victims and fight back legally.
1 Cor 15:57


My son was repeatedly bullied by two different bullies. The school refused to release any information regarding the investigation or punishment of the bullies. I requested an opinion from IPAD. They declined to assist me. I also wrote a letter to one of my state senators. He also declined to assist me.


I am so incredibly concerned and distraught after reading all the parents comments. I am going through my son being bullied verbally and physicall, the school and the district turning their back to the issue,blaming my son and defending the perp and the suicide of a 15 yr old girl due to bullying. I’m really concerned, my son has mentioned suicide and that he can’t take anymore. I have shown him I am trying to keep him safe and get him out of that school. I have gone so far as to record my concern of the way my son feels directly onto his IEP. Could anyone who says they are doing their job really ignore the comments I have added to his IEP? I am so scared for all kids suffering from bullying and it feels like a hopeless battle that seems like I can’t win. Why is it that parents concerns are so disregarded?


My 10 yr old son was being bullied verbally by a group of girls constantly last school year. When at the end of the school year he had enough and hit one of the girls when she screamed in his face (literally in his face) her mother,a teacher there,filed assault charges. His behavior plan was not being followed and he was not supervised as he was supposed to be. Many witnesses stated she invaded his personal space and provoked him. However, the school did nothing about the bullying going on, and my son served 24 hrs community service, had a $70 fine and had to take a ‘decision making’ class where he was put into a room with 16-17 yr old inner city boys who all had major attitudes. After filing a complaint with the school district I was told my son never should have been referred, it was not his fault. But what’s done is done.

D. Dowell

I absolutely agree! Where is the case law that requires the school to provide the victim that information?


My grandson is being screamed at by his teacher. My daughter met with teacher, she is saying he is lying. Other parents have voiced the same concern. Nothing has been done. What can be done ?


Put a recording device on the boy. It would not hold up in court, but you would know without a doubt that it was going on. They ignore and say both kids are guilty. They make you think your kid is not telling the whole truth. Let’s face it. Kids do tell fibs to get out of trouble, but if you heard it for yourself you might be more prone not to stop or back down.


What if the bullies were the Vice Principal, Principal and teacher? This is what happened to my 11 year old who is PDD-NOS. I was continually told not to believe him because his perspective was wrong. So I resorted to recording his class without the school knowing. By doing so, it was confirmed that he had in deed told me word for word. Tried to take on the school but couldn’t afford to go any further. I still wish I would and could have done more. He had been taken outside and pushed/pulled on till he ran. He had his neck grabbed and shoved in a cubby hole in class. He had his collar bone pressed down on till he sat down (Vice Principal). He was constantly threatened and told not to tell his mother. I could go on and on. The superintendent agreed that the school did nothing wrong.


For clarification’s sake, my earlier post was very limited in scope- I was only referring to a school’s inability to divulge certain personal info.- and so please don’t be discouraged when they don’t. Pretty please don’t take that to mean anything further. I taught middle school for several years before law school, and am very aware of how essential advocating for your children is to ensuring their proper treatment.
And- a broader question/ response to some of the lack of response by school admin’s to students being bullied: I know that folks have brought suits under Title VI for the creation of a “hostile educational environment.” This would be supported in cases where a student was bullied, and the admin failed to take action because of a student’s race. I don’t know if ADA has a similar cause of action somewhere?


Hello All-
I am just a lowly law student, but I am under the impression that FERPA (34 CFR 99) prohibits the release of disciplinary records of one student to the parent of another. A parent would have a right to review records that are directly related to their own child. This would often include witness statements- even if the statements included info. about another student. But not the sanction imposed on another student, even when the parent’s child was injured/ victimized by the disciplined student’s conduct (see 73 FR 74832). [FERPA only covers the privacy of records, not personal observations, etc.]
This is not intended to contradict the oracle Wrightslaw, whom I love dearly, nor to support a particular policy- but only help explain why schools are taking certain actions. Again- law student only- I may be missing something


So what about not letting a parent view a video that is being used as evidence against a child. Is there any way for me to make them let me see a video they made of my child?


This would depend on your state law rules. Your state parent training, & information project or state Disability Rights agency could help you. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center

Concerned Parent

My understanding of FERPA is that video and audio recordings of your child are included as records under the statute.


In my state, other children are obscured in any audio or video recordings so you only have access to the information for your child.


Nephew with autism has been victim of bullying on several occasions in school. It has been brought to administrations attention at various times throughout the year & matter continues unresolved. Requests for 1:1 have been dismissed with alternate solutions such as peer buddies & recreational aides assigned to “supervise” him. The bullying continues & administrators continue to dismiss it because of the way the ask my nephew what happens. I have yet to find “professionals’ who truly know how to “interrogate” a child especially one with special needs. My nephew shuts down & will not discuss what happens. Strongly feel a 1:1 would help. The recreational aide has failed on several instances just recently my nephew walked out of school into the parking lot & no one knew. His mom found him wandering in the parking lot.


During an IEP meeting in 2005, the minutes indicate that the attorney for the school will contact the Sherriffs department to address parents concerns of child receiving cuts and bruises from a staff member. This never occurred.

Children in special education continue to be seriously injured while at school in similar situations.

At what point do Attorney ethics come into play to allow law enforcement to investigate this series of events to ensure that neglect/abuse is not the root cause of this ongoing practice?

I know that COPAA is collecting data to be presented to Congress. I also know that two special needs children required medical attention recently in our district that could have been prevented if school attorneys were not “protecting” schools from making the same mistakes over and over.

Justice anyone?


My child is being bullied by a teacher and her class. The school tells me that its my child, not anyone else. My child has adhd and that is why this is going on. What can I do?


Tia-You need to begin documenting to the school in writing every time a bullying incident takes place, if it did not happen in writing in never happened at all. Also Texas has an organization called TOPAA (Texas Organization of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates). They have a website, it is http://www.TOPAA.org.


My 10 yr old son is being verbally bullied constantly by the kids in his class. He has severe AD/HD and pediatric bipolar disorder. One girl in particular picks on him constantly and knows how to push his buttons. In the last month, she has invaded his private space (not touching him though) and yelled in his face, etc. and he has hit her twice. The girl’s mother is a teacher there. This mom ‘brags’ about how many times she’s called the police on her ex. They have now pressed assault charges against my son. He is 10 and in 4th grade. He is so worried that he is going to jail! The school refuses to do anything to the kids who are bullying him and pushing his buttons. He is punished for ‘losing it’. Who wouldn’t? Texas is the only state that prosecutes children criminally for school ‘scraps’. The school police have been no help.


What options do I have when my 11 yr. daughter is special needs(severe ADHD, and Tourettes) and she is being bullied by a specific group of girls. They are verbally abusive and laugh at her. Apparently they’ve been doing it all year but my daughter wanted to handle it on her own. Today at recess they were picking on her and her 8 yr. old brother went to help(he’s also special needs) the girls then called him names and one of them proceeded to hit him. of course none of the adults saw it happen. This is not the first time. Last year she was picked on the 2nd week of school, put on a hit list to be shot and a picture of her was defaced with a moustache and a bad word. Please can you tell me the steps or options that I have. The school as a bullying policy but they still act like it’s he said she said.


Ignoring doesn’t make it go away


Who’s next?


This special education teacher makes me sick to stomach to even insinuate that the bully is the victim here. My child is a special needs child and has suffered both mentally and physically from bullies at his school. I finally had to hire an attorney and threaten to press charges with the local authorities in order to find some relief from this “so called acceptable” behavior that the school turns a blind eye to. I was told, ” Kids will be kids” when I complained. For once in your life, do the right thing and protect the victim in these situations. This type of behavior would never be acceptable in the work place. The bully would not only be fired, but the company sued for turning a blind eye. There should be no difference in the treatment of harassment or bullying in the school setting.


Our 12yo 5th grader, new to public school program this year has IEP’s in place.. My husband and I are aware that his real issues lie in pragmatics. He was recently tested and his score was just below the range for normal range. The speech path shared that this is what is really causing him the most difficulty with his decifering and decoding his social situations There are three boys who are repeatedly seeking him out either in class, lunch or recess and encouraging other kids to avoid him. The solution from the teacher was that “she couldn’t make the other kids like him”, “to write a list of reasons why the other kids may not like him”, “make a plan to see what he could try to change his behaviors” I have called a meeting with the teachers and psychologist to discuss the need to address all kids. I’d like some advice.


So according to the last statement, my daughter’s principal should tell me what consequences the bully had after he talked to her. He tells me he cannot say anything except that he has taken care of it. Yet I don’t know how the bully was disciplined, besides being told to not do it again. Can I demand the principal tell me what happened?


My son is an IEP kid and is continually bullied by a group of kids . I have repeatedly went to the school to resolve the problem and got nowhere. My son came home today with a mark 3 1/2 inches long by being hit with a broom handle. The school gave him an ice pack and never contacted me about the injury. The child who did this to my son is a repeat offender. What do I do? Do I bring the police in?


I agree, parents need to know who did what, when and what was done to WHOMEVER this was done by TEACHER, student, friend. I think my daughter is suffering PTSD due to a teacher that made an “racial” remark and stated she was being sarcastic. Nothing probably was done to the teacher, but my daughter took an emotional hit. Not just from this incident, other incidents that she may have played a role in, but teachers did nothing. New principal? We will see what change she is looking forward to. Kids dont understand sarcasm and parents don’t understand being left out of what is going on. It all starts with the teachers we look up to to educate our kids while at school. If you are doing your part at home and the school is creating XTRA issues for you to deal with at home…then what?


Our 8th grader has also been bullied and most of the time, he is the one getting in trouble. Seems to me the teachers see everything he does but not what is done to him. After several years of phone calls and promises, I have finally started sending emails and getting responses. I send them to the special education administrator, the principal, assitant principal, as well as the superintendent. I have had enough of empty promises that the bullies are being dealt with. I no longer accept that the school cannot reveal the name of the bullies. My son never tells on anyone without me prying it out of him. I have explained to him that these kids get him in trouble and now it is up to him to make sure they are punished as well.


You guys are scaring me. my son is in preschool and is asd and my daughter is in elementary school and is asd everyday is a struggle for me to let them go because I’m afraid that one day this “might” happen. They are in good schools, I frequently visit “just to make sure” they never know when I’m going to show. I go in visit chat with the teachers and take the kids early that day. When you catch people off guard you see and hear a lot, I have never seen anything bad it has been all good thus far. I wish you all the best of luck and my prayers and thoughts are with you. I too was bullied as a child, in some cases it has made me stronger in other more cynical of people and their intentions.



Phone calls are not good enough for back up to use later for showing lack of action by Schools. Emails are best with – responses, times, dates on them. Start from the bottom and work your way up until someone listens and takes action. Call the police and file a report every time a incident happens. If Schools refuse to give you information about YOUR child’s SAFETY – don’t send them – go higher – EMAIL THE SUPER. After all – you put YOUR child in there hands everyday and it’s YOUR responsibility to keep YOUR child safe. My son has Aspergers – this is what I did when a bully broke my childs finger. The school had to prove to me how they were going to keep him safe before I would send him back – It only took 2 days. I proved lack of action with prior emails and got answers. Do not be scared – this is YOUR child.


My grandson is child with Specific Learning Disability he being harassed and bullied at his middle school. I have had numerous meetings with the Principal and the Behavioral Interventionist. They have refused to tell me what actions were taken against the students that harassed and bullied my grandson. I was told by law they cannot share that information with me. What can I do or where can I go to obtain this information. My grandson has been slapped, choked with a rope, kicked, called stupid, retarded and called names using profanities. Please help. Thanks.


Our 10 yr old son has multiple disabilities including but not limited to Asperger’s. He was bullied on the bus and in school for 2 years. I documented each incident by emails to the schl admin; they were witnessed by his outside therapist who serviced him in school. Schl admin. dismissed every incident that caused our son to be hospitalized 3 times w/in his last school yr.

During recorded 504 mtgs, they refused to aknowledge the bullying, reinstate his classification, revise his IEP, consider the opinion of the IEE & the outside therapist. They refused to remove him from the hostile classroom environment. By the end of the year, he developed a hit list that we shared w/the s.d. The principle laughed; the gatekeeper refused to move him to an emotional support classrm for the remaining 11 days.


I need your suggestions.my son who has and I.E.P and is overly compliant,with no behavioral issues from his prior school.He has been telling me that he thinks his teacher sometimes bullies the kids,well my son came home and told me the teacher did it to him the other day.so i talked to the teacher and said the scare tactics and intimidation better stop.or I would file a complaint.so now we have a big meeting next week with principal,school administrators so on.they ofcourse they will defend the teacher,so im not sure how to handle this,what do I say or not say,Its his word against the teachers.What should I do,they said to me on the phone.oh your son is just very sensitive,my son is very smart he knows right from wrong


My 9 yr. old grandson is bullied every day at his public school. My son, daughter in law and myself have gone to the school and reported this instances. What we have been told is “They’re kids, this happens all the time.” My grandson has ADD and is definitely not socially and academically like the other children. He is called a loser, wimp, gay and retard. He has also been stabbed with pencils, hit with a hockey stick and kicked in his private parts. I am literally scared the entire time he is in school. We get no help from the school and they treat us like a bunch or complainers. What can we do? My son cannot afford to move to a different school district. Thank you for any help you can give us.


My 13 yr. old daughter is a victim of bullying & sexual harassment and when I asked any questions regarding the boy who victimized my daughter, I was told that it could not be openly discussed until we have an IEP. I do not have an advocate and desperately need one as I do not want to go to the IEP alone! Any suggestions? I live in California if that is of any help? Where do I start to find an advocate for my child who is attending an SDC class?


Wow Margo/Mom,

Your situation reminds me of a couple of bullying situations I had to contend with when I was in Jr High. Gangs of girls are the worst! The bullies only stood down when I refused to back down and challenged them to a fight. That behavior would be considered “unacceptable” in adult eyes, but boy – it sure made the bullies stay outta my way!

I’m sorry to hear that your son couldn’t confide in you – I will keep that in mind as my son gets into the upper grades and try to keep the lines of communication open.

Thanks for your story. I hope it’s working out for your son!



My son had a long-term bout of victimization during his first two years of high school. I knew only bits of it until the day that my son shoved the agressor and the school threatened expulsion (the other kid took a swing at my son and missed, hitting the teacher). My son spent two years “handling” this harassment by avoiding the kid (and the class he was in), reporting it to teachers, other acceptable behavior. There were disciplinary attempts–but no resolution. When all came out, I was shocked by how little was shared with me, as well as how little importance was attached to the behavior. I didn’t want the other kid expelled–but there are meaningful solutions that can result in changed behavior. We changed schools–too much was wrong to be able to change.


Our child was assaulted by an untrained school shadow.

In a meeting with the person who is now in charge of Special Education, photos were presented as well as a personal interview with my child as the Admin was shown each cut and bruise on arms, chest and shoulders.

This mandated reporter opted not to report this to authorities to investigate to ensure that other students were not at risk.
To address this, changes were made to my child’s discipline report.

Peers are nolonger the bully. The administrator and an attorney have worked really hard to modify documentation. It was reported on audio in Nov 05 that the assault was “Justified” by the Admin with their attorney present.

Bullying is not limited to peers. Some bullies are protected by those we trust to protect our kids.


Our ADHD LD 9 yr old son has been picked on by other kids; he acts immature & naive. We have him in karate hoping the lessons [walk away rather than fight, but be able to defend yourself if need be] will help. We role play w/ him to show that there are other ways to deal w/ bullies, & that not all teasing is bad.

I have a good relationship with the school & care program. I am told what happens to the child who’s hit my son [my son usually tells me the name]. Occasionally, due to my son’s behavior, not all of it is the other kid’s fault.

Getting into fights & teasing is an age old rite of passage. Parents have to teach social & coping skills, but also teach kids how to defend themselves before coming permanent easy targets. Schools & parents need to draw the line between this rite & outright meanness, & address the aggressor.

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