Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bullying of Kids With Disabilities - Part I

Seal, United States Court of Appeals for the T...
Seal, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bullying is a real problem in our society.  Bullies often take advantage of those whom they perceive as weaker.  The Columbine tragedy brought the problem to a higher level of public awareness, but the problem persists.

Kids with disabilities are often singled out by bullies.  This has become one of the hottest of hot button issues in special education law.  Several laws could be implicated, but my focus here will be upon whether bullying can constitute a violation of IDEA.

In the next installments, I'll discuss a well-reasoned District Court decision, but first some background on the legal foundations for this analysis:

In the seminal decision by the Third Circuit in Shore Regional High Sch. Bd. of Educ. v. P.S. 381 F.3d 194, 41 IDELR 234 (3d Cir. 8/30/2004) recognized that bullying could prevent educational benefit, and a school district’s failure to respond could constitute a denial of FAPE.  See also, Gagliardo v. Arlington Central Sch Dist 489 F.3d 105, 48 IDELR 1 (2d Cir. 5/30/2007).

          Shortly, thereafter the Second Circuit ruled that a student with a disability cannot receive educational benefit or FAPE if he is not in a safe environment.  Lillbask ex rel Mauclaire v. State of Connecticut Dept. of Educ.  397 F.3d 77, 42 IDELR 230 (2d Cir. 2/2/2005).  

           These cases provide the analytical foundation.  


  1. On Oct 30, 2012 Kyle Wells committed suicide because of bullying. There was a article in the Cody Enterprise the principal did mention very personal things about the student. The grandmother said on the public television she had asked for help with kyle at the school. His best fried went and asked with him. After he died other students gave descriptions of the hell Kyle experience at the hands of other students. No hero's saved him. No hero's fought for him after his death either. It still makes me cry.

    1. Thanks Anon,

      It helps to tell the actual stories of real kids.


  2. My Asperger son is currently being bullied at school. He received a 6" bruise across his back from a child who first stole money from him, then threw him against the wall when he tried to get his money back. The principal of this particular middle school is uneducated in the aspects of autistic children, has no training and refused to investigate the incident, other than believing the perp and his best bud. He simply said it was an altercation between two children and it was mutual. I'm not clear on how he believes it was mutual since my child has a 6" bruise and did not start the argument. The principal clearly is not interested in helping IDEA children. He escorted me out of his office when I disagreed with him, and I did not even raise my voice. He simply cannot handle any woman who disagrees with his interpretation of events. Maybe if I had a man there he would have listed? Maybe he is simply not smart enough to entertain any idea other than "it takes two kids to fight". I think he should take his tree switches and go home. My son is real and he is scared to go to school every single day. He is an IDEA act child. What can be done?

  3. Hi Anon,

    Because I am an impartial (mediator, hearing officer and consultant, I never represent or advise either parents or school officials in special ed matters. I recommend though that you contact an attorney licensed to practice in your state, preferably one conversant with special ed law.

    Good luck,

    Jim Gerl