School bullying and sexual harassment often go hand-in-hand and are very prevalent in the school setting; as such, they pose a very real problem for children, especially those in middle school and high school. Not only can bullying and sexual harassment in the school setting contribute to feelings of low self-esteem, depression, and a loss of interest in school; they can also lead to suicide, as exemplified by a number of cases in past five years.

When bullying is directed toward the developmentally disabled, it is even more damaging. For parents with special needs children, school bullying is a very real and serious threat. It is estimated that approximately 85% of children with special needs experience bullying (Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Bullying and the Child with Special Needs. 2011) Even worse, about 47% of parents reported that their developmentally disabled children had been physically harmed. (Disabilities: Insights from across Fields and around the World. 2009). This is simply unacceptable.

Due to the prevalence of school bullying and the effect it has on students, Seth’s Law (or AB 9) was adopted in California in 2012. It strengthens existing anti-bullying laws by educating and thereby empowering the victims of bullying, and providing them with concrete steps to take in order to eliminate the problem. Seth’s Law is named after a 13-year-old student in California – Seth Walsh – who committed suicide in 2010 as a result of being exposed to years of anti-gay bullying his school failed to address.

Between 2010 and 2011, approximately 48% of students in grades 7 – 12 experienced some form of sexual harassment at school, with nearly 44% of students reporting having encountered sexual harassment in person. (Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School. Hill, C. and Kearl, H. 2011) While there is no clear-cut definition of sexual harassment in the school setting, a very basic definition is unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with a student’s education.

When schools fail to adopt or enforce policies to help prevent bullying or sexual harassment from taking place, especially among the developmentally disabled, or when they know of the bullying or harassment but fail to take action, they need to be held accountable. Learn your legal rights by contacting the Law Offices of Robert M. Wilson. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation and completely private consultation.