Legal Protections For Children Who Are Bullied at School

You’ve taught your child diversion tactics; you told them to ignore it. Maybe you even reached out to the other parent. Nothing has helped — your child is still being bullied.

Despite the best efforts of many well-meaning parents, not every bullying situation can be resolved through conversation. Sometimes in order to stop the abuse and relieve their child of mental or physical torment, a parent must take legal action.

The Illinois Legislature recently passed a bill amending the law that governs School Report Cards released annually by the Illinois State Board of Education. The statute strengthens reporting requirements of violent incidents by schools to ISBE.

Beginning with the 2022-23 academic year, ISBE’s publicly available School Report Cards must include data about the “number of incidents of violence that occurred on school grounds or during school-related activities.  In addition, the result of the incident must be reported as either an out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or removal to an alternative setting.”

While school districts and administrators maintain control over disciplinary decisions for violent student-to-student encounters, they will be required to report these incidents to ISBE. 

Illinois bullying prevention law

This important legal amendment to Illinois’ school data reporting laws will help parents understand the rate of violent incidents at their children’s current or future schools. The data may also indicate how seriously a school district regards violent incidents, and could even pressure low-performing schools to address student violence more directly.

Not all bullying incidents involve physical violence, and the  Illinois bullying prevention law clearly defines what constitutes bullying within a school setting. The law includes stipulations for both bullying and cyber-bullying.

Illinois law defines bullying as “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or electronically, directed toward a student or students.” 

To meet the legal criteria for bullying, the act or acts must meet one of the following qualifications:

  • Placed the student in reasonable fear of harm to them or their property
  • Caused a substantially detrimental effect on the student’s physical or mental health
  • Substantially interfered with the student’s academic performance
  • Substantially interfered with the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by their school

While it does not limit its definition, Illinois law provides examples of various forms of bullying, including harassment, threats, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, theft, public humiliation, destruction of property, or retaliation for asserting or alleging an act of bullying.

Illinois bullying law also includes a section about cyberbullying, defining it as a type of bullying that is conducted through the use of technology or any electronic communication. This includes impersonating someone in an online account that has one of the effects mentioned above.

A school’s legal responsibility to address bullying

To prevent and address bullying, Illinois law requires school districts to develop and maintain a policy related to bullying. This policy must be communicated to students and their parents, and be on file with ISBE. Among other things, the policy must include:

  • Procedures for promptly reporting, including the school contact person responsible for taking complaints, and a procedure for anonymous reporting
  • Procedures for promptly informing parents or guardians of all students involved 
  • Procedures for promptly investigating and addressing reports of bullying
  • Interventions that can be taken to address bullying

For certain types of bullying that rise to the level of criminal intimidation, Illinois law requires school principals to promptly report those incidents to local law enforcement authorities.

What parents can do to address bullying

Unfortunately, there’s no single, easy answer for parents trying to protect their children from bullying. While Illinois law has measures in place for schools to prevent and address bullying, legal action often represents the last resort option.

Begin by approaching school staff members through the chain of command, starting with your child’s teacher, before moving on to the school counselor, principal, and superintendent. Familiarize yourself with the school’s bullying prevention policy, relating it to your child’s negative experiences.

If you need to address a violent bullying situation, start by documenting the incidents your child experienced, including dates and details. Take photos of any injuries your child endured or property that was damaged.

Also keep a record of communications with the bullying child’s parents, teachers, social workers, counselors, health workers, administrators, and other staff. 

Finally, if you believe your needs are not being properly addressed, you can escalate the issue to the ISBE. 

Important note: If you believe your child faces imminent harm, contact local law enforcement authorities to discuss your options.

Bullying and orders of protection

When a bullying situation becomes so dire that even school interventions are unsuccessful, some parents consider asking the court to grant an order of protection against their child’s bully. An order of protection also referred to as a restraining order, is a legal directive that bars contact between two parties.

Orders of protection include physical distancing rules, as well as prohibitions against all forms of communication, including written, electronic and messages sent through a third party. With an order of protection issued against them, a bully could not be physically near their victim, nor speak to them, send them messages of any kind, or ask another child to pass along comments or threats. 

Filing an order of protection, especially against a minor child, is a serious legal move. Facing the potential of being excluded from their class or the entire school, the other child’s parents almost certainly will contest the order in court. Such a case may cause anguish and will cost money in legal fees. 

If legal action becomes necessary to stop the bullying, again be sure to prepare your case with detailed documentation of incidents and outcomes. 

Know Your Child’s Rights

If you have questions about your child’s right to be safe from bullying, call to speak with one of our legal professionals.

Whether you are a current client or if you are looking for family law or estate planning assistance, our team is here for you to address your concerns.

To the extent possible, we will offer remote consultations and provide services from a distance.

You may message us here, complete the form below to email our office, or call 815-600-8950 and one of our team members will be able to assist you.

This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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