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. I have a 13 year old grandson that was punched in the face at school. we have just found out that both sides of his jaw is broken and they are going to have to wire it shut. this is not the first time for this kid that did this. what and who can I get to help us in this case?

  2. 12Christy I did something similar to what you did. I was very quiet and knew the layout of the school well, so I acted like a spy escaping the teachers who were upset with me for no good reason.

    I’ve learned schools now call bullies emotionally disturbed and claim they are disabled. Every child has the right to an education, even sociopaths who will do nothing with it. Students should be able to get cops involved if the school does nothing. It took me 20 years to stop blaming myself as my school victim blamed me saying I made myself a target. A student should be able to say no and have it respected an heard. No student should be threatened with punishment or blamed by teachers for being a victim. Our schools are not safe as long as being a bully is considered a disability.

  3. We live outside of Houston, TX. My son was stabbed in the back by a student with scissors. The school nurse contacted me of the incident. The boy has been attacking my son all year. We requested for the attacker to be removed from the classroom but they want my son to be removed. In this same school district our older son was choked by a teacher. We called the Police and their investigation was she had no prior incidences. We also called ISD police, arrived today and made a report but I feel that this school district has a racism for black children. We need your help and fast.

  4. My ADHD son was assaulted by a special education teacher on May 2,2014. He had multiple fingerprint bruises on his back and sides. I was never called and it was not reported to police or CPS by the school. I did both immediately! The teacher resigned in July. Unfortunately, charges against him were “no billed” by the Grand Jury, even though he opening admitted to causing the bruises on my child. So, this teacher gets away with seriously harming my child? This can’t be seriously happening!!!

  5. I think that when a crime is committed the criminal, regardless of age and location forfeits confidentiality. With maybe exemption or rather consideration of the circumstances, ex. Kids has had been bullied by the “victim” and possibly “snapped”. By the way regardless of confidentiality policy when a crime is committed that goes out the window, even quicker when the child has to go to the hospital to be treated. I’m not talking about a bruise or scratch , however if those are or become chronic should also be considered a hard crime and just as bad. My son has adhd and he has been bullied and has also bully other kids out of frustration and as a consequence of his adhd. So I do understand both sides. I’ve been in school to be told what my son had done and to see his legs full of bruises. Stop protecting criminals, it stops NOW!

  6. my daughter currently has a 504 plan for an anxiety disorder. In March she told us that she was bullied by verbal abuse. This included name calling and harassment in the hallways. When she would go to math class (intro to algebra) she had elevated levels of anxiety, along with recurring thoughts about the insults. After almost a whole year of school, she lost vital classroom instruction, and was blamed for failing and not going in for extra help. We told the school about the bullying and even told them she failed in spite of the tutors. They did not care of the circumstances and could not do anything about the bullying because my daughter is refusing to give names, she only gave lunch tables. I have been asking the school for two years for an IEP, but they refused. now everyone is celebrating and my daughter has to go to summer school.

  7. My 9 year old daughter was attacked on the school bus yesterday. Apparently, I am not allowed to know WHO they are, or HOW they will be disciplined. This privacy law needs to change. I can partially understand withholding names…but why on earth am I NOT allowed to know how these kids were disciplined?

    • I’ve had the same problem,but in lunchroom,the school said I couldn’t view the footage of the incident because other kids being in the footage! I know most of the kids not interested in them just what took place with my child! What rights do I have to see video? Please help!

  8. My child talked in class & yelled at by the teacher in the class, hallway & not taken to the office as students in general education, but is taken outside the Special Ed. office. Teacher pulls case manager out & complains about student & calls her a jerk. Student has never been in trouble in the class. I am told she is treated differently because she is in S.E., but has no behavioral issues per teachers or indicated in her IEP. She is treated differently because of both disability & race? What laws pertain to this? A routine parent teacher/adm. meeting was set up. Teacher brought Union Rep.(atypical) & without parent consent & has no relevance to my child & is not known to parent & refuses to leave or state y he is there. Is this a violation of privacy confidentiality &harassment? She was bullied & staff told her of the meeting. Help!


    My son is 15 and he was attending a drivers education class at the local High school. He does not attend this school, that is where the classes were being held. While waiting for the instructor to come int ot he class he was attacked by another student who was a student at that particular school. He has been bullied in the public school system since elementary and he is very quiet as not to draw attention to himself now. The other student attacked him and he defended himself. No one was seriously injured but now the school that he went to for the drivers education has kicked him out of the class and the deputy that was at the school is filing a juvenile petition against my son. I feel helpless in this situation. I want to know how I can fight for my son who has been a victim of bullies for years.

  10. my son was recently injured at school. No one knew anything and we weren’t called. I addressed my concerns through e-mail and a followup IEP meeting. During the meeting I was told that my son had bitten 2 or 3 adults prior to. Supposedly, he bit one person so bad their skin broke and they had to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot! Yet, I was never told! When I asked for the specifics (names and what happened) I was told I could not have the information due to HIPPA laws. But I was given the dates these incidents occurred. However, I keep just about all of my sons daily reports. On two of the days in question, my son had “great” and “very good” days. Notes were written at the bottom of each report but did not suggest that any biting occurred. So my question is, can the school deny me this information? And is there such a HIPPA law?

  11. What about when I asked to view the video that the principal said they have of my son but won’t show me and my son said its because they deleted it and my son was expelled 9 days, long-term/expulsion has been put on hold due to my withdrawing my son. Is this allowed?

    • So sorry our schools don’t do better by our kids! I would please like to know how I can go about seeing a video of my son being bullied? Someone please help us?

  12. My son has had problems at his school. Last year he was beat in the face while others were watching! After that there were threats on facebook from others we took it all to School the Assistant principle said he didn’t think it was serious we came home and saw more stuff and this time went to the Principle and he put a stop to it!! This year he has had a boy threating him and he goes to the office and tells them they do nothing ! Well last Friday he and his girlfriend were sitting in the Library at School and the one that beat him up last year and the one that’s messing with him this year the one came by him and handed him something and said hold this don’t tell anyone when he looked down and saw it he turned to hand it back to him and he was gone the other boy went out and right after that the principle came in it had Marijuna in it! They did nothing to the other boys they said they couldn’t prove anything but now my son and his girlfriend are at an Alternative School!! If they are in special ed do they have any options on what Schools they want to go to. I had gotten a letter one time that said they could go to a different one because the special Ed. at this one wasn’t up to par or something!

  13. Hello yesturday I got a call from our school stating the my 7 year old son was attacked by another fellow student. He was punched in the face and knocked to the ground and kicked in the face/repeatedly kicked in the back. The school has it on security video. The School Recsourse officer was involved as well. I was told that they could not tell me anything other than what the child did to mine and that this will never happen again. I am at a loss of what to do. What are my sons rights? What are my rights as a parent? Please help.

  14. I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I am bipolar. I was harassed by not only the kids at school, but by the teachers as well. I remember one day I got put into ISS (In School Suspension) and I didn’t want to be there so I hid in the girls bathroom, but I left my bag on accident in the classroom and the teachers told me that they will take my bag if I don’t come out of the bathroom, knowing that i would try and get my bag from them. Plus, one of the counselors decided to take my head phones from me and break them then tell my parents that he didn’t and that they are in his office, because I wasn’t allowed to have my IPOD out during school hours even though music was the only thing that calmed me. Do I need to say any more?

  15. My child is a minority, and was bullied and harassed for over five years; every year became worse. The school assured that the other parents were involved and it was taken care of. Finally things came to a head in the Spring of this year in which this kid scratched a chunk out of my childs face. This kid was taunting my child on a daily basis. The school staff reported to me that my child was crying every day. I have recently learned from the mother of that child, that the school never made her informed of this bullying or harassment. The mother states that she provided free services for the school with her printing buisness. The school has takent the position that the mothers statements are hear say and that she is not credible. The school never took any responsibility. Monitary gain truley out weighed my childs rights!

  16. Hello, my name is Yolanda, I have a 13 year old son, who had a malignant brain tumor, which caused a great deal of his intellectual disabilities. Also, my son has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Is his disability the same as a traumatic brain injury.

  17. Belle – Try to get that child away from that teacher fast and report her to the administration right away. This should not be allowed.

  18. Do you think a substitute teacher who calls grade school children, whom she is suppose to educate, should call these children names like “Stupid” or “Retarded” is showing good judgement, especially in front of the other children in the class? The child by the way, has a glowing report card that she was proud of that same day. What would suggest the repercussions for the teacher/substitute teacher should be? Thanks for your participation.

  19. My son is in 3rd grade and has adhd, autistic characteristics and stutters…he has a hard time expressing when he is upset so i have him role play. He has been bullyied since kindergarten by different kids over the last 4 years in a very small school (85 students). He has been choked with a rope, kicked in his privates, led off to hidden areas and beaten, been imitated and called stupid in the cafeteria. I questioned the teachers, principle, and the superintendent. Their solution was to ban me from school. Yesterday, he was attacked and started hyperventalating. He asked to call me. They tried to talk him out of it but he stood his ground. When they called me, They tried to prevent me from talking to him. When i insisted, he said pick me up. These bullies parents all work at the school. They protect them and my son has regressed now.

  20. My daugter is being bulied at her school, being called all sorts of names, being accused of stealing this girls stuff, they taunt her , laugh at her atc. I have been to the school several times, emailed and called. I have logged it all and have created the paper trail. Girls will be girls after my daughter was beat up. Since this tarted last yr, I have written the governor of our state, emailed the Dept of Ed, and now I am working with the attorney General’s office as I have had enough of the school doing nothing. I am meeting with an attorney next week. I tried the right avenues to have the door shut i y face, and what appears the school protecting the Bully. My daugter deserves better than this she is an honor student and has never had a discipline issue. I am fighting for her and for the others who cannot fight for themselves.!

  21. My child’s elementary school fails to call me when my six year old daughter is ill, and they keep her in the office. I’m concerned that this staff including the principal of the school are not doing what they are supposed too. I need to know what local Congress and legal government I can call?

  22. TRINA – Yes you can sue. First get a copy of the school’s policy on bullying, harassment. Then get together with them to discuss before you tell them you are going to press charges. Everything will need to be put in writing. I would press charges if it were me.

  23. My son has been bullied for the past three years. I have notified the school and it only got worse. Last night at a basketball game he was assaulted. can I sue? Would rather get ahold of the bullies, but what can I do???

  24. My child was in a sped autism room last year. We just learned that the child assigned to sit next to our son hit children on a regular basis (21 times in a single week). We were never notified that he was EVER hit by anyone and only found out because even after changing schools, my son continues to obsess over that boy and I found his father’s blog…

    The aggressor has autism. My son has autism. The school has so far refused to answer any of my questions about was was done to my child. They cite confidentiality. What right do I have to information and what law backs that up?

  25. Theresa – This is not good. Your son is only in first grade.If he is on an IEP, ask for an IEP meeting and request a functional behavior assessment. Be sure to sign the school’s paper so they complete the eval in 60 days unless your state has different timelines. The school should complete the assessment and provide you with the test results and a positive behavior intervention plan that those who interact with him at school will have to follow, including the principal.
    The behavior assessment will help school staff to understand his issues and what “triggers” the behavior issues. This will help you as well. Don’t let the team talk you out of this or say “we can do this without an IEP” – because if it a service is in the IEP, the school has to provide it.

  26. my son 7yr. old son has adhd and the school principle is constantly picking on him. he takes recess away, makes him eat lunch alone, all field trips are taken away….his desk is taken away and he has to sit on the floor numerous things have happend and i need to know how i can protect my child at school there has to be some way he is only in the 1st grade and this is the second year it has happend and i am tired of him coming home crying everyday……if you have any info please pass it on… thanks!!!!

  27. My son is switching schools tomorrow due to years of bullying at his current school. His self-esteem is shot now. As a family the stress this has put on us is unbelievable. Both my son and I have physical side effects from the stress: insomnia, stomach aches, etc. My husband and I argue over how to protect my son. My other child has not gotten the attention he deserves because we spend so much time trying to help our child who is being bullied. And worse, the adults at the school try to shift blame to my son when an altercation occurs, such as: “the other kid threatened to kill him because he was mad at your son,” or “they thought they were playing with him, it was all in good fun,” and the excuses go on but the bruises don’t lie. I had to fight to get him transferred, and we are so fearful of this happening again.

  28. For those of you that are recieving the runaround at school, you need to contact an attorney and go to your local newspapers. No school district wants to go through fighting allegations in the press.

  29. Our 12 yr old daughter was sexually harrased and violently assaulted at school today. Unfortunately, my daughter is not the first young girl to be victimized by this boy. However, the school is citing FERPA and refusing to communicate with us about what disciplinary action and safety measures will be taken, to insure this does not happen again. I amabsolutely not satisfied with being told, “We will take appropriate measures.” What does that mean? What do they believe is appropriate? I’m afraid to send her back to school.

  30. Can a special education teacher file a cease harassment charge against a parent who is in the middle of a due process complaint twith their right of stay put envoked.

  31. Connie – Bullying is a school issue not just a special ed issue. The principal needs to get involved immediately to rectify. You may request a time to observe the class as well. This may be a good idea.

  32. My son has been has been bullied in school for 5 years. We’ve spoken to the teacher and also principal who say they dont expel children that bully other kids. They keep the bully indoors all day, only one day though. Its just not good enough. They are supposed to give our children a safe enviroment. What happened to the no bullying at schools policy? He hasn’t been going to school. He is ten years old, maybe with ADD and he does have a learning disability. No kids are angels, but when it comes to teasing one another, there is no need to get physical. Its just not right. Can you help? thank you

  33. Is the school required to notify me if my child gets injured? My child is nonverbal and in a special ed classroom with an aggressive child. Based on “rumors” and the increased number of bruises that I see, I think that she is being pinched and hit frequently – and the school year just started!

  34. My son is quite large for his age and very strong. However, when the bullies do pick on him, he doesn’t fight back because its not in his nature. We teach our children the three Rs Respect responsible and ready to have fun. If the first is not present in certain activities, then by all means, he removes himself, whether a headache to the nurse or the such. I don’t believe fighting is a right of passage. It spread childhood trauma not easy to overcome. And the sooner children learn what’s acceptable behavior, then the better their future will be.

  35. Kathie and others,

    In some of these cases you should contact the Civil Rights Attorney and address below, your children are being discriminated because they have a disability that’s just not right at all.

    Office for Civil Rights U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.. Washington, D.C. 20202-1100 (202) 245-6800; 1-800-421-3481

    Now if someone is giving out confidential information about your children you need to contact FERPA

    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20202-8520

    ACLU in your state might help if you can not afford an attorney but contact them all.. I am writing all them this week about my son.

  36. We were denied observation in class so we advised we had been tape recording the class for 3 weeks (30+ hours). Showed the teacher and aide were bullying, harassing and intimidating the children. Staff were removed from the class that day but were only suspended, 6 weeks later with pay pending investigation. All we are told is they can not tell us anything or promise that staff will not be back because its a personnel issue. On tape the teacher is making fun of my son who is on a speech IEP, making strange sounds pretending to be my son, saying this is why he is on an IEP. She goes around the class saying this one is ADHD, this one will never learn, this one doesn’t deserve to be here… The school system is NOT going to do anything. They protect their own. Who should I write and complain to? What are the laws that will allow me to know the answers we want?

  37. Jennifer: My son was being picked on on the bus in 5th grade by 3 boys. At first it started as just a little joking around and then got worse. Our son told us about it and we brought it up to the principal of the school. She told us she would handle it. For awhile it was ok but started up again. This time we put in writing the issues and needed it to be handled and sent it to the principal. She again stated she would handle it and again it went away for awhile but started up again. The last request was a certified letter stating that we would press charges against the parents for harassment and that took care of it. It was handled and it stopped. The schools as far as I know must handle any harassment issues with students or they can get in trouble.

  38. I am in the same position. My son was choked and beaten up by the same kid two different times. 1 was in the bathroom and the other was on the school bus (it was recorded) they are both in 5th grade. each time the kid was absent from school for a week. I am irate because the school will not give me any information and every time its happened they tell me ” it has been handled”—-when obviously since it has happened 2 times, it has NOT been handled.

    Shouldn’t the consequences be a little more sever than a week off each time? What rights do I have? I honestly feel like I should sue the school to prove a point.

  39. A few weeks ago, a 3rd grader told me he was being “bothered” by three big boys but would not identify them. Today he took his aggression out on a kindergarten student who accidentally tripped over his backpack. I did not witness the altercation, but because I had documented the bullying, I am involved. So I stood wondering how much information to give the parent of the kindergarten student about the other student. I also wondered about the physical/emotional damages of the kindergarten student, and then found myself doubting whether or not to give the parent any information about the offender in fear that they may retaliate, thus making the bully the victim. I have a 4 yr old, so I put myself in the parents place. More questions arised, so I ask, where is the line between victim and bully?

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