South Carolina has made another top ten list, but it’s not one we should be proud of. The Palmetto State ranked ninth overall on WalletHub’s 2016 list of the states that have the biggest bullying problems. And we have the dubious distinction of being tied for first in the nation (with Louisiana) when it comes to the percentage of high schoolers who stay away from school because they are afraid of bullies. And, regrettably, South Carolina ranks seventh in the number of suicide attempts by high schoolers.
The National Education Association reports that over 160,000 children miss school every day because they are afraid of being bullied. The results of bullying can be horribly tragic: a South Carolina mother in 2014 lost her 13-year-old son to suicide due to relentless bullying. More recently, in September, 2016, a 9-year-old from West Virginia took his own life because of bullying.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is much more serious than horsing around or the usual childhood disagreements. It is not normal, and it is not just “kids being kids” or “boys will be boys.” And these days, it’s not just a boy problem: girls are often bullied and abused as well. Bullying ranges from name-calling to shaming and verbal abuse, to cyberbullying, and to physical violence.
Cyberbullying is a special problem. The prevalence of social media means that bullying is no longer just a one-to-one situation. Dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of kids can gang up on one child online, shaming and abusing them. It can be too much for many kids to take—and understandably so.
What Should I Look For?
As a parent, there are certain signs you should be aware of that might lead you to suspect your child is being bullied. Be alert for the following:
- Your child used to enjoy school, but now wants to stay home.
- Your child’s schoolwork quality and grades have declined.
- Your child comes home with unexplained injuries more than once.
- Your child spends a lot of time alone, and has no or few friends.
- Your child is moody, sad, or depressed all or most of the time.
- Your child’s appetite has changed a lot.
- Your child starts having trouble sleeping or suffers from repeated nightmares.
- Your child complains often of stomachaches, headaches, or other physical ailments.
- Your child starts taking a new route to school, especially if it is longer or out of the way.
Bullying Laws in South Carolina
South Carolina does have anti-bullying laws that also apply to cyberbullying. In fact, the WalletHub survey listed our laws as the seventh best in the U.S. Procedures spelled out in the laws include investigation, response, intervention and protection of the victim, notifying parents, and involving law enforcement officials. South Carolina law considers bullying to be any action, gesture, or electronic communication that can be seen as:
- Something that harms a student, physically or emotionally, or damages the student’s property.
- Something that makes the student afraid such harm will occur, including personal harm.
- Something that insults or demeans a student or group of students so that normal order in the school is disrupted or is interfered with.
In May, 2016, a mother in Anderson County, SC, filed suit seeking damages and relief for her middle-school cheerleader daughter, whom she says was bullied, harassed, and physically assaulted. The mother alleges that the school district did not protect her daughter despite her numerous complaints.
If your child is being bullied, and you are not satisfied with the solution presented by the school or school district, it might be advisable to seek legal advice. Cases can sometimes be brought against schools or against the parents of the bullies. If the bullying arises from some form of discrimination, and the school receives federal funding, federal civil rights violations may be involved.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
Is your child being bullied at school or elsewhere? Do you believe you might have a case? Injury resulting from bullying require a thorough investigation by an experienced legal team to determine possible negligence, which individuals and organizations should be named as defendants, and which legal theories should be pursued. South Carolina laws can be complex, and there is a deadline for filing a claim. As the initial consultation is always free, reach out to us at the Louthian Law Firm today by calling us at 1-803-454-1200, or by filling out our online contact form.