This is a text synopsis of a
powerpoint presentation that Attorney Jennifer Laviano and Special
Education Advocate Julie Swanson present on Bullying & Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities
Jennifer and Julie are available to present this presentation for your group.
Bullying is a
pattern of repeated aggressive behavior, with negative intent, directed
from one child to another where there is a power imbalance.
- according to leading Norwegian researcher Dr. Dan Olweus
Bullying can take many forms…….
Physical (hitting, kicking, shoving)
Verbal (teasing, name calling)
Emotional (Intimidation through gestures,
social exclusion orshunning)
And the newest form of bullying - Cyberbullying:
Sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages or images;
Posting sensitive, private information about another person;
Pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad;
Intentionally excluding someone from an online group
Text or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones, Web pages, Web logs (blogs), Chat rooms or discussion groups, and Other information communication technologies.
The challenge is that research
supports that kids with disabilities are at greatest risk to be bullied
by their peers, but we don’t know the precise correlation between
someone’s disability status and their risk for victimization
We only have research that tells us how kids with disabilities are at risk to be victimized by adults
don’t have good empirical research to make the connection between the
adult statistics and whether this same behavior is true for children
abusing other children by bullying
Further challenged by the fact that many states keep disciplinary data on reportable offenses at school.Here in In Connectictut, the data does not include victim demographics oridentify the type of bullying
Reportable offenses include:
Bullying (without identifying the type)
In other words, most states don’t keep data on bullying and kids with disabilities
Therefore, we don’t have a finger on the size and shape of the problem.
So where does that leave us?
Wondering if this level of intolerance among adults toward kids with disabilities occurs among children as well
Here’s what we know about adults and kids with disabilities:
Children with disabilities are 2 to 3 times more likely to be abused by adults
Children who think or act differently are 7 times more likely to be abused by adults.These are often referred to as “invisible disabilities.”This is especially true for kids with autism.
“invisible disabilities” include:
Autism spectrum disorders
ADD / ADHD
Non-verbal learning disabilitiesAnd other disabilities that compromise a child’s social skills
Here’s what we know:
The majority of the families we work withhave children with “invisible disabilities” and seek to resolve bullying issues
Falling back on the school’s bullying policy is simply not enough to meet the child’s needs who has an “invisible disability.”
Possible signs of bullying:
Sudden onset of school avoidance or refusal to attend school
Significant change in behavior or mood, especially in a child’s ability to socialize and relate to people
Any of these changes suggest that a child should be screened for the possibility that he or she is being bullied
There are two approaches to addressing bullying: both of which can be proactive and reactive
Ask for your school’s bullying policy
Ask to see your school’s bullying program
Even the best skills don’t do any good if typical peers aren’t tolerant of kids with differences. Ensure your school
has a research-based bullying program that demonstrates significant
deterrence effects and sustainable outcomes.
Student-centered: Screen your child at home:
Talk to him or her and explore what’s happening at school and with peers
Set up a data collection system at home that tracks any changes in behavior
Have a team meeting with your child’s special education team (special ed teacher, regular ed teacher, case manager, social worker, guidance counselor, psychologist, SLP, principal)
and make them aware of the situation
Ask school team to monitor your child over a period of time. Set up a data collection system among team to track any changes. Monitoring must take place across all structured and non-structured school settings:
Document the issue and place in your child’s educational file
Determine if it is a reportable offense in accordance with school policies
Put a (written) plan in place with school team
Develop IEP goals to address the social deficits
Identify the problem:
Inability to read / recognize social cues(shunning, teasing, gesturing, etc.)
Inability to respond effectively(lack of a strategy bank)
Inability to self-advocate
“You can’t fix a problem if you don’t identify the problem”
Develop a plan targeting your child’s level of ability:
Set up a buddy system in unstructured settings (school-wide)
Develop incentives for other kids to participate as buddies (school-wide)
lessons to raise awareness of bullying, and that it will be taken
seriously and there will be consequences when students bully (school-wide)
Develop IEP goals to address each individual social skill deficit (student-centered)
Develop IEP goals to address each individual pragmatic language deficit (student-centered)
The basis of all social skills is rooted in pragmatic language:
Pragmatic Language is defined as "the social use of language.”
Repetition and consistency is the key to obtaining social language goals.
Strategies that don’t work:
Telling a child to “walk away.”
Encourage your state to produce a report that considers recommendations for kids with disabilities
Encourage your state to start taking data that captures bullying and kids with disabilities
Most state requires
each school to have a bullying policy and follow a bullying program,
but allows schools to choose any bullying program they choose
Insist that your school chooses a research-based bullying program with effective and sustainable outcomes
or not, adults often blame a child with social skill deficits for
miscommunication and having a difficult time with interpersonal
situations.Adults less frequently scrutinize the social intolerance and ridicule that is inflicted by typical peers.
We must encourage that teachers and staff have guidance and training on how to handle the bullying of kids with disabilities.
If we continue to ignore this issue, we are failing the intent of inclusion.
There is no federal
law or statute that specifically addresses bullying in our schools for
children with or without disabilities.
United States Department of Education Prohibits Disability Harassment
Disability harassment is preventable and must be addressed by schools, colleges and universities
Some States have legislation that addresses bullying…..
However, many of these state laws do not provide for a private right of action
What about your state?
The state of Connecticut defines “harassment, intimidation, or bullying” as:
“any intentional written,
verbal, or physical act that a student has exhibited toward another
particular student more than once and the behavior both:
(1) causes mental or physical harm to the other student;
(2) is sufficiently
severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating,
threatening, or abusive educational environment for the other student.”
Sec. 3313.666(A) of HB No. 276.
Connecticut also requires each school district to “establish a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying”Which establishes procedures forreporting
incidents of bullying to the school administration, informing parents
of such incidents, maintaining data on reported bullying, preventing
future bullying of the same child, and disciplining those who are found
to have been bullies.
Sec. 3313.666 (B) of HB No. 276
And yet, despite all this….This section does not create a new cause of action or a substantive legal right for any person
Sec. 3313.66 of HB No. 276
What does this mean?
An Ancient legal maxim is:
Ubi ius, ibi remedium
“Where there is a right, there is a remedy.”
Therefore, is the reverse true?
With no remedy, is there a right?
We are forced to look to other statutes and policy statements for guidance and remedy
For children with disabilities, there are two key legal questions:
1)are there damages which can be recovered in a lawsuit; and
2) how, if at all, is the child’s IEP impacted by, or impacting, the situation?
1) Are there damages which can be recovered in a lawsuit?
If so, remedies are found in several federal laws:
Section l983 of Civil Rights Act
Section II of The ADA of 1990
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
United States Constitution
Constitutional protections at the federal and state level can also give rise to causes of action….
However, most courts would expect that the bullying be:
severe and pervasive deny child access to educational opportunities-or-
that a single incident be outrageously severe enough to trigger school district liability
2) How, if at all, is the child’s IEP impacted by, or impacting, the situation?
These questionsmust be asked:
Does the IEP adequately and appropriately address the child’s needs?
Are social skills deficits being addressed?
Is the child seeking out inappropriate relationships because they are frustrated in school?
Is the disability compromising the child’s ability to defend himself or putting them into potentially dangerous situations?
Equal consideration must be given whenthe bully is a child with a disability.
If the child’s IEP is not appropriate, which give rise to bullying, then the procedural safeguards under IDEA are involved.Examples include:
Scruggs v. Meriden Board of Education
Parents sued their
district for violation of l983 Civil Rights Act, after their son
committed suidice following severe bullying, which led to consistent
absenses and behavioral issues which should have triggered an
evaluation of his special education nees.The case was ultimately settled.
Smith v. Guilford Board of Education
The Second Circuit Court of
Appeals reversed a dismissal by the lower court of a claim by the
parents of a child against the school district, claiming that the
school district violated Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act due to
the fact that the Plaintiff’s minor child with ADHD and who was
especially small relative to peers, had been continually bullied and
harassed to the point where the Court found that the boy had been de
facto withdrawn from high school in order to avoid the bullying.The
Court not only reversed the lower court’s denial of the Plaintiff’s
1983 claim, but also found that the Parents had a right to pursue
denial of FAPE and Constitutional claims as well.