Once considered to be a normal, if regrettable, part of growing up, bullying and hazing are now recognized as the destructive forces they truly are.
Research shows kids who are bullied or hazed in school are more likely to drop out or do poorly academically. They may also suffer physical injuries, or go on to develop long-lasting psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
In the past, school administrators with “kids will be kids” philosophies might have been able to ignore on-campus bullying or hazing. Today, that approach may have serious repercussions. Schools have a duty to create a positive learning environment and protect students from harm. Academic institutions that fail to develop or implement bullying or hazing prevention programs—or don't take action to stop bullying or hazing once becoming aware of it—may end up in the center of civil litigation based on negligence or breach of contract laws.
If your child was the victim of bullying or hazing and suffered physical or psychological injuries as a result, he or she may be entitled to compensation. Here's what you need to know.
Bullying and Hazing Defined in KS and MO
Kansas and Missouri state laws define bullying differently, which could have an impact on your civil case.
- Kansas: In Kansas, bullying is any intentional physical act or threat sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment that a reasonable person knows—or should know—will physically or mentally harm victims, damage their property, or cause them reasonable fear for themselves or their property. Cyberbullying is a term for bullying by electronic means.
- Missouri: Missouri defines bullying as repetitive or "likely to be repeated" intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that causes students to fear for their physical safety or property; interferes with their educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Like Kansas, Missouri uses the term cyberbullying for bullying through electronic communications.
The two states also have different definitions of hazing.
In Kansas, hazing is “recklessly coercing, demanding, or encouraging another person to perform, as a condition of membership in a social or fraternal organization, any act which could reasonably be expected to result in great bodily harm; disfigurement or death; or which is done in a manner whereby great bodily harm, disfigurement, or death could be inflicted.”
Missouri defines hazing as a willful act against a student or prospective member of an organization that recklessly endangers mental or physical health or safety to the extent that the person is knowingly placed at probable risk of loss of life, or probable bodily or psychological harm.
Examples of hazing include whippings, brandings, beatings, exposure to the elements; forced consumption of food, liquor, or other products; sleep deprivation; physical confinement; or duties or tasks that involve breaking the law.
Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied or Hazed
Though bullying and hazing can happen at any age, this type of behavior often starts in middle school, at a time when children are naturally beginning to become less forthright with their parents.
Watch for these signs, which may indicate your child is being bullied or hazed:
- Frequent unexplained injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, or valuables (like jewelry or electronics)
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches
- Faking illnesses to avoid going to school
- Changes in eating habits, such as binge eating or refusing food
- Sleep disturbances, such as nightmares or insomnia
- Loss of interest in grades, school, or schoolwork
- Avoidance of friends or social situations
- Decreased self-esteem
- Feelings of helplessness
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as self-harm, running away from home, or considering/attempting suicide
What to Do If Your Child Suffered Bullying or Hazing
When a school administration shirks its duty to protect students from bullying or hazing, the parents of the victim can file a lawsuit in civil court to hold the institution accountable for its negligence.
The skilled attorneys with DRZ Law specialize in this critical legal area. If your child was the victim of bullying or hazing, they can help you understand your rights and options for pursing compensation. Whether you live in Kansas, Missouri, or anywhere else in the country, contact our Kansas City metro office today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case with a member of our legal team.