Bullying in schools is a problem that no child should have to deal with. This issue has been in the news plenty lately, and many states and local governments have take steps to prevent bullying in school. However, there are times when bulling causes physical or emotional damage to a child that could have been prevented. In these cases, families can file lawsuits against those responsible.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen the issues of bullying hit the news once again with the case of a Florida boy who was teased due to a homemade t-shirt he made to support the University of Tennessee football team. The boy’s design has since been adopted as an official school shirt design. They have also offered the boy a four-year scholarship when he is ready for college.

Defining bullying

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Department of Education define the core elements of bullying as:

  • Unwanted aggressive behavior
  • Observed or perceived power imbalance
  • Repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition

There are a few types of bullying that can take place. There is direct bullying which occurs in the presence of the person being targeted. There is also indirect bullying that is not directly communicated to the targeted person. Rather, it happens through things like spreading rumors. This type of bullying can have the effect of humiliating and isolating the youth from their social networks.

What does Montana law say about bullying?

Montana does have anti-bullying laws on the books. Specifically, they say the following:

“Bullying” means any harassment, intimidation, hazing, or threatening, insulting, or demeaning gesture or physical contact, including any intentional written, verbal, or electronic communication or threat directed against a student that is persistent, severe, or repeated and that:

(a) causes a student physical harm, damages a student’s property, or places a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student or the student’s property;

(b) creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit; or

(c) substantially and materially disrupts the orderly operation of a school.

Montana’s laws also cover bullying that takes place off-campus through the internet and other electronic communications.

The laws mandate that school districts adopt policies prohibiting “bullying, hazing, intimidation, and harassment of students.”

The laws in Montana do not protect any specific groups that may be targeted by bullies, and they do not encourage school districts to implement bullying prevention programs or strategies.

What kind of damages are available in these cases?

There are several types of damages available in a lawsuit over bullying. Each case is different. Damages available could include compensation for healthcare expenses related to the bullying, including physical injuries as well as emotional and psychological injuries. This could include coverage of mental health counselors and psychologists.

If the bullying resulted in the loss of life through suicide, a family could bring a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible for the death to recover compensation for the loss of life.

Who could be held liable for the injuries caused by bullying?

Your attorney will work to hold some or all of the following accountable:

  • The school district
  • Individual school officials
  • The person who did the bullying
  • The parents of the bully