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Parents Can Come Out Kicking and Punching Now. You Don’t Have to be Afraid Anymore!
If They Retaliate, Sue Them and Take Their Jobs!
The New York State Anti-Bullying Law, the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), Went Into Full Effect on July 1, 2012.
The Law Now Makes Teachers, Principals, Administrators, School Districts Responsible and Liable for Acts of Bullying that Take Place on School Property or in the Context of School Activities. Now, In Addition to their Civil Liabilities for the Welfare of School Children, the Law Makes the Schools Co-Liable for Bullying of Students on Students, or Teachers, TA’s, or Coaches on Students. But It’s Up to YOU, It’s YOUR Responsibility as Parents, to be Proactive and Public in Protecting Your Children!
We just received another request from a concerned RCS parent with a child or children in the RCS schools who writes [names redacted to protect the individual’s identity and to ensure confidentiality]:
The Parent’s Plea:
“Hello Im another concerned parent of RCS children …I was hoping you assist me. Simply what I am Looking for is…What lawyer is representing the [redacted] family in their suit against the RCS district? I ask since I am in the process of seeking my own legal advice for bullying. If you don’t know or feel uncomfortable disclosing that information hopefully you can suggest an attorney who isn’t so-called “corrupted”.
“Also would you be able to direct me to any other possible resources out there that may be able to help me?
“I have followed the “chain of command” regarding the bullying since October 2011, teacher- guidance – principal – superintendent – CSE – teacher- principal -superintendent & recently a email to the board (no replies to the email).
“Simply put .. I’m at a large brick wall of a dead end- and need direction, to insure the safety of my child.”
Your original message was forwarded to us by one of our contributors whom you contacted with your request but did not have the information you needed. We hope we can offer you some help in this response.
First of all, any concerned parent would be well advised to seek out other concerned parents and to join together to seek representation as a group. First of all, a group has more backbone to pursue such a campaign, there’s “power in numbers.” Secondly, in a group, you can all share your experiences and establish a pattern of abuse and indifference by the administration, essential probative items for a good case. Thirdly, in a group you can share not only stories but also expenses. Getting individual representation might be difficult but if a group of you approach an attorney, s/he’ll have a better feel for the situation and can put together a better strategy. Fourthly, the District would be more intimidated and more prone to settle if confronted by a group of parents represented by an attorney who is ready to kick ass.
One of the problems you parents who contact us have is that you say you want to protect your children but are willing only to go half way. You want to do what you’ve been doing for years–not only you but so many others–creeping around in the shadows, trying to stay invisible, yet saying you want to stop the bullying or solve the problems. But you’ve got to stand up and come out into the light to do that.
You parents are not going to get anything done by skulking around in the shadows, not wanting your names mentioned, not wanting to tell your stories to the public, wanting to assert your rights but wanting also for someone else to carry the load for you. Sorry, that doesn’t work.
Individually, your lovely school district is going to eat you up one-by-one when you come with your complaint. You think your tax dollars are going to the children in your schools, do you? Just wait until you have an issue with the school district, that same school district who is always telling the voters, “We’re here for the kids.” But not your kids. You may have already experienced how concerned they are for the kids: did you get any response to your complaints or inquiries about the incidents you are talking about? Probably not. The RCS CSD turns into an entirely different animal when it comes to having to deal with a problem, especially when it might make them look bad. And it’s an ugly beast when it comes to responding to a complaint about a child’s welfare in the schools; that really makes them look bad. Don’t you think you should be telling the world about that?
It’s usually very unlikely that the District will respond to e-mails, they’re too dangerous. But what I do and always suggest first and foremost is that you document everything in writing in a notebook or some other way as soon as possible after an event or incident or contact. That’s very important when it comes to evidence and any hearings or court appearances. If it’s written down as soon as possible after it happens it’s 1000x better than plain old memory. Second, put all your requests into letter form, clearly stating the problem (no emotions, just the facts, please), times, dates, names, and what you want answered. Always include a reasonable request for something to be done that will make you happy or satisfy you. Then mail it to the school principal, the RCS CSD superintendent, and to the president of the board of education. Send the copy to the RCS CSD superintendent by certified mail, return receipt requested. Then you have proof you made the inquiry, proof they received it, and then proof they didn’t bother to respond.
As for sharing information about someone else’s representation or case, I’m afraid I”m not in the position to to do that. But what I would suggest is that you call the individual or drop by that individual’s home, they’re very welcoming and helpful, and talk to them about your needs and concerns. Talking directly to persons with similar problems is immensely helpful and healing. It’s worked well with many types of problems.
If you still want to go at it alone, I would suggest you contact the New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 1 (800) 342-3661 firstname.lastname@example.org, or Department for Children, Youth and Families Programs & Services at the Child Protective Services (CPS) Hotline: 1 (800) 342-3720, tell them what you need, a ask for a recommendation for assistance in moving forward with your case.
I’d also suggest that you get out of that Democrat cesspool of political party machinery and give Pete Lopez, your NYS Assemblyman for the 127nd Assembly District (but running for the newly formed 102nd district that includes Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, New Baltimore are part of his district), tell him about the problems you’re having, about the response you’re getting from the District, ask for his help. Tell him this bullying problem is big here and obviously big everywhere if the legislatures of a large number of states have actually passed laws like the the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), New York’s “Dignity Act“! That’s why he’s there. Besides, if you hadn’t already heard, it’s an election year and the candidates will be chomping at the bit for sensitive issues to toy with.” In fact, call everyone who’s running and not part of the local political machine (that would exclude Tom Dolan who has done NOTHING with regard to helping parents with the bullying problem–he’s part of the political gang that’s part of the problem!). And you haven’t heard a peep out of the Delucas, the Bartletts, the Whalens, Engels, Revilles, Latters, Misuracas, Leput-Hommels or any of the other Coeymanazi bunch about the bullying problem. Of course not! They’re part of the system and you don’t buck your own system. And besides, they’re all out doing something ultra-important: collecting bottles. Do you get it? If it’s easy and gets them brownie points they’ll do it; if it involves getting their hands dirty and being prophets, Forget it! Just give them glory and they’ll love you for it but don’t expect much in return.
So, what I’d recommend first of all is to find like-minded allies, especially parents whose children were bullied in the past and may have graduated or left the RCS school district. They may be very willing to step out with you. Then, contact parents with children still in the RCS school district and get together, explaining how important it is to join up and step out. You’ll get nothing done if you and others like you keep hiding. You’ll never be able to say that you actually did sometihing to protect your children and some day they might actually ask you, “Why didn’t you, mom, dad?“ What will you answer?
Of course I will respect your request to keep our conversations private but I would also ask you to please continue to keep us updated on what you are doing and how it’s working for you. It helps us to help others in your situation or in similar situations to know how our advice is working for them.
The Editor, Smalbany
Keep in mind the types of bullying that go on in our schools includes student-on-student, teacher-on-student, coach-on-student (sometimes even teacher-on-teacher, and student-on-teacher, believe it or not)! We can talk about various types of bullying that often appear simultaneously:
- Physical: pushing, kicking, assault with objects, etc. It occurs more frequently in primary than in secondary. But don’t be led astray by this generalization, as student’s get older, physical abuse becomes more covert, more calculated, more dangerous and symptomatic of bigger problems ahead! Research shows that bully teachers and coaches have a history of being bullied. There’s also evidence of a bullied-connection withviolent, sociopathic behavior in adults.
- Verbal abuse and name-calling, slurs in public, highlighting physical defects, etc.. It is the most common and can leave very deep scars. Words do harm and harm deeply. Teachers be especially aware of this in yourselves.
- Psychological: undermine the individual’s self-esteem and foster their sense of fear. The psychological harm is really a common feature of any bullying but it is a standalone form of bullying, too.
- Social: attempts to isolate the members of other groups, or to exclude certain persons or classmate as members of a group. Scarring. Can produce problems further down the road in the young adult and the mature adult (true for all of the bullying types!).
So, In Summary, Our Advice Is:
- You need to be parents to your children. That’s more than just providing them with a cellphone, junk food, and a ride to the mall! You need to be a positive role model, a source of nurture and protection. Not a friend, a parent!
- Have open, honest dialogue with your children about the reality of bullying and that there is a law against it.
- Encourage your children to bring their concerns to you immediately, not to wait, not to be afraid.
- Get names of other children who have been bullied (your own children will probably be the best sources for this information, believe it or not). Kids see and hear a lot at the school and that makes them great sources of information. Contact the parents of other children who have been bullied or abused in your district. Get together to form an action committee. There’s power in numbers and the more people you have with similar experiences, the more credible your own case. This will become very important later at hearings or in court!
- Document all incidents, conversations, contacts, etc. in a written record with dates, times, incendent description, names of those involved, names of those contacted, outcome (always with dates and times!).
- Confront principals, administrators, superintendent, board of education immediately with your concerns. Don’t wait! They’ll use that against you! And do it in writing(not by e-mail), and what you expect to be done to fix the situation. The best way is a copy of the letter of notice or inquiry to each of the levels (principal, administrators, superintendent, BoE) with the copy to the superintent by certified mail, return receipt requested. Remember: Stick to the facts, admit nothing, don’t get emotional, assume you are always the victim! Don’t let them use anything against you later! Don’t believe any promises! Get it in writing!
- Follow up on each of your inquiries or complaints by telephone call (note date, time, who spoken to, and substance of the call), and then with a written confirmation of the follow-up and brief details of the conversation. Send a copy to the other party and to the superintendent.
- If you still don’t get a response. Contact the local police, make a complaint. Send a copy of the complaint to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office referring to the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), send a copy to your Assemblyman and to your state Senator. Do this by regular mail, not by e-mail. You can follow up or confirm by e-mail and attach a scanned copy of the hard copy letter or complaint.
- Contact the New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 1 (800) 342-3661 email@example.com for a referral to an attorney specializing in lawsuits against school districts, even specializing in cases under the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). Under the law you are entitled to an initial free consultation with an attorney. If s/she decides to take the case, get him or her to provide you with a written letter of representation that states the approximate cost of the case in fees etc. and the approximate length of time s/he expects the case to take to resolution. Do not ask for promises that you will win; that’s unreasonable.
- From that point on, let the attorney do his/her magic, but follow-up regularly, never trust or think that they’re on top of it, they’re probably not and will likely need some high-voltage prodding to get them to move their asses. Stay out of the way but stay informed!
- Be active! Be very active! It’s your children at risk, not theirs. Your children will thank you some day…or curse you if you’don’t act now!
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