A new report based on interviews and statistics concludes that children who are especially vulnerable to bullies, kids with disabilities, have few resources to deal with the problem.
The report, which includes testimonials from parents and students, provides a few heart-breaking glimpses into the taunts and terrors faced by children with a variety of exceptionalities. In one case, classmates of a boy with cerebral palsy tied the arms of his sweatshirt to a fence. They watched as he struggled to break free and put pictures of the episode on Facebook.
While 45 states have adopted laws related to bullying in the last five years, the report notes, few address the bullying of students with special needs in particular. California schools chief Tom Torlakson told the Bay Area News Group he wants to work with legislators on ways to incorporate special-needs concerns into existing anti-bullying legislation.
Concerns about potential bullying are not enough to prove that a proposed school placement is inappropriate for a student with special needs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, a federal judge has ruled.
In a Pennsylvania case pitting the parents of a teen with autism, known in court papers as J.E., against their school district, the parents argued that the district should pay for a private placement as opposed to the large public high school the officials recommended.
Fear that J.E. would be bullied at the public school was among the reasons cited by the parents in arguing that the district proposal was inappropriate. Specifically, J.E.’s mom said that she heard students at the school talking about bullying and the parents said J.E. had been subject to bullying at a previous school.
However, in a decision reached earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno said that worries about bullying are insufficient to deem a placement inappropriate.
“J.E. may face bullying, but a fair appropriate public education does not require that the district be able to prove that a student will not face future bullying at a placement, as this is impossible,” Robreno wrote in his opinion.
Gregory Branch writes at The Santa Ana Special Education Examiner:
The judge's ruling makes clear legal sense in that, generally, potential wrongs, cannot be addressed by the courts. It takes an actual wrong for a court to rule in a party's favor. The unfortunate part of this ruling is that it places a hurdle in the path of parents who are seeking to protect their special needs child from being bullied at school.
As noted in a recent article, a new report issued by Abilitypath.org, Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, has shown special needs parents what they had both feared and suspected: their children were far more likely to be bullied than typical students at school. While understandable that a mere fear of bullying is insufficient to trigger a school placement decision, here, during a parent visit, the students in the class were actually discussing their concerns about bullying on the campus.
If you are the parent of a special needs child, please know that your child has rights, but in this case those rights are no different than any other child. Every students has a right to go to school free of bullying and torment. Please do not hesitate to assertively take action if you are aware that your child has been bullied. Every school and its personnel has a responsibility to make sure that your child is safe at school.