top of page


What To Do If You Or Your Child Is The Victim of Bullying, Harassments, or School Violence

We understand that your child or you being hurt in a K-12 institution is extremely distressing, traumatic, and isolating. It can be frightening to know where to even start. You can always feel free to reach out to us by filling out our contact form, and we will call you back as soon as possible. 

If you suspect that your child has been the victim of some form of school violence, it is important to act immediately. While many types of school violence, such as bullying, may initially seem relatively harmless, it is important to ensure that nothing more serious is going on. 

Being proactive is the most important thing you can do as a parent. You should talk to your children about healthy relationships, tolerance, acceptance, consent, and what they should do if someone is hurting them, making them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Encouraging an open, calm, and transparent dialogue with your child is important. If a parent is too harsh, it will dissuade a child from being able to talk to parents if they are in trouble. 

A key indicator of school violence is a dramatic change in behavior. While not all children are the same, common manifestations include: extreme negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, sadness, or anger, outbursts, resistance to being touched or exposing ones body OR inappropriately exposing one’s body, low self esteem, unexplained aggression, depression, extreme mood swings, and/or self-destructive behavior. While adolescents often experience some of these behaviors as part of puberty, it is important to be watchful for these signs to know if something serious is going on. 

If your child has expressed that they have been the victim of K-12 violence, it is important to assess how serious the situation is. The first thing you should do is calmly talk to your child, reassure them, and make them feel safe with telling you everything. Even if what they tell you is upsetting, try not to get too emotional or angry around them, as this may dissuade them from talking more. 

It is important to note that children and teens don’t always properly articulate what they are going through. For example, what they describe as “bullying” or “teasing” may actually be severe racial discrimination. “Touching” or “bothering” may be sexual assault, or worse. Enlist the help of psychologists or mental health professionals, if necessary. 

Once you have an idea of what’s going on, you should approach the school. Most school officials mean well and should work in good faith to resolve the issue. 

The first thing you should do is tell somebody in the administration, ideally the principal, about what is going on. Unfortunately, many courts have ruled that simply telling a teacher or other school employee who lacks authority to implement changes, is not enough to put a school on notice that there is a problem. As much as possible, document your interaction in writing, such as by explaining the problem by email or following up with an email. While some school officials may balk at emails, know that emails provide an important paper trail, and prevent schools from trying to cover up. 

When approaching the school, it is important you use the appropriate language. If there is racial-based bullying, call it “discrimination.” If there are sexual based bullying, call it sexual harassment. Remember, there are no federal anti-bullying laws and most state laws against bullying are weak. However, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, gender (including gender expression (i.e. being perceived as being effeminate or overly masculine), sexual orientation, and sexual harrassment), and disability are protected categories. Invoking any of these protections should give you and your child additional protection. 

The school should provide you with an appropriate plan on how to handle the alleged violence. At the very least, they should conduct a thorough investigation and present their findings, ideally in writing, about how they came to those findings. Although schools often have to worry about student privacy, the findings should not be conclusory. IN other words, they should not say “after conducting an investigation, we found Student A bullied Student B.” Instead, they should discuss who they talked to, what was said, and what evidence was gathered. While some schools may not release other students’ names, they should still give you the findings with the other students’ names redacted if this is a concern. 

Regardless of whether the alleged misconduct is substantiated or not, you should also demand the school provide you with a written, remedial plan on how to prevent further incidents from occurring in the future. Part of this plan should include periodic check-ups with the school to gauge progress. You should also follow up with your child to ensure that the school is complying with the plan. Note, the plan should be minimally burdensome on the alleged victims. Plans that require major alterations, such as change in class schedules, for alleged victims, are not acceptable. 

Proper remedial actions, regardless of whether an allegation is substantiated or not includes: additional training, re-assigning seats, separating the alleged victim from the alleged perpetrator (in a way that is minimally burdensome), extra monitoring of students, peer support groups, meeting with counselors or psychologists (for both the accused and the accuser) providing students with safe spaces to report further misconduct and/or a designated reporter, moving lockers, and no-contact orders. 

Many times, all these actions will be enough to stop any types of problems or harrassments. However, if the misconduct continues or escalates, it is important to act quickly. Research shows that when school officials fail to act on relatively minor bullying and harassment, misconduct can quickly escalate and the abuse becomes more severe. 

If the school’s actions are not acceptable or adequate, you should contact the school superintendent. Again, this should be in writing as much as possible. If there is a basis for any type of discrimination on a protected basis, or retaliation for complaining about previous bullying, you should say so in writing. 

The superintendent’s office should be able to put you in touch with the district Title IX, anti-discrimination, or equal opportunity officer if you allege discrimination because of a protected category. These officials should have special training on how to investigate claims of discrimination and provide both accountability and remedies. 

At the very least, you should demand a full investigation. Many school districts now offer hearings for this type of misconduct, and this is something you may consider. Further, even if the allegations are not substantiated, like the school, the superintendent should be able to provide remedial actions to prevent any further allegations. 

If the superintendent is not helpful, and the situation gets worse, parents are in a tough position. School violence, especially if it becomes physical or sexual, can have serious, life-long ramifications. At this point, you may want to consider pulling your child out of school, moving them to another school in the district, or demanding homebound instruction until the problem is remedied. These are serious measures, but if the situation is escalating, they may be warranted. This decision should be made in close consultation with your child’s doctors, therapists, and medical professionals. If they feel your child’s health is at stake, you should consider withdrawal. 

If the superintendent fails to act, you still have remedies. If there is protected activity, you can file a discrimination charge with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Many states also have robust anti-discrimination offices that may be better equipped to investigate and make changes. Other school systems, such as New York City Public Schools, have an independent ombudsman that investigates and demands changes in these types of situations. And of course, depending on your community, you can always contact your local officials, such as elected school board members or city council-members, who may be able to help in this situation. Note, you (or your child, if they are over 18) are entitled to your full academic record under the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA). This includes all documents the school has about your child, including emails and non-privileged internal correspondences. You may request this at any time, and it may be a good idea to ask this if you feel the school is continuing to mishandle your complaints. 

If all else fails, you can file a lawsuit against your child’s school. However, this should be a last resort. For claims of federal discrimination and retaliation, there is a high burden of proof, and schools are given a fair amount of deference with how they handle complaints. It is not enough for them to have made mistakes or been negligent--they must have either acted wrongly on purpose or with deliberate indifference. Many states have their own laws, both anti-discrimination as well as general negligence laws, that may protect students against misconduct. If your child attends a private school, you may be able to sue for breach of contract. Finally, the first amendment of the United States prevents retaliation for bringing a grievance to a government official (including a school official’s attention).

If your child is a victim of school violence or you suspect they may be a victim of school violence, it’s best you take action. If you need help, feel free to contact us, or reach out to the resource below. We can help put you in touch with lawyers, advocates, and health professionals that can help you and your children. 

Get Help: Text

Additional Resources

Mental Health Resources:

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Childhelp (1.800.4ACHILD) Provides 24/7 assistance in 170 languages to adults, children and youth with information and questions regarding child abuse 

Child Sexual Abuse. Stop It Now! Phone: 1-888-PREVENT (1-888-773-8368)

Crime Victims. National Center for Victims of Crime. Phone: 1-855-4VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)

Suicide Prevention. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Phone: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), TTY: 1-800-799 4889

If you or your child are having a mental health or physical emergency please call 911 or go to your local emergency room. 

Please note, we have not personally vetted some of these programs however, they have come up as recommendations and we wanted to pass them along. 

East Coast: 

Inpatient/ Stabilization

Johns Hopkins Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: 

Boston Children’s Hospital (Inpatient and Outpatient) 

Sheppard Pratt: 

University of Maryland Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Trauma Disorder-- Inpatient and Outpatient)  

McLean Hospital:


University of Pennsylvania Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety: 

Columbia University Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:

Center for

The Ross Center: 

University of North Carolina Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment Program:  

Allegheny Health Network (Pennsylvania): 

Northeast Center for Trauma Recovery: 

Rowan Medical School, Child Abuse Research Education and Service Institute (New Jersey) : 

Kennedy Krieger Institute (Baltimore, Maryland) 

Klinberg Family Center (Connecticut) 

Please also check out this website by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network who also have a list of referrals for individual mental health programs and providers for children who have endured trauma: 

Virginia Outpatient Programs:

North Spring Behavioral Healthcare (Leesburg): 

Kellar Center (Fairfax): 

For Adults (East Coast) : 


Sheppard Pratt Trauma Disorder Program (Baltimore, Maryland) 

Mclean Hospital, Hill Center For Women (Belmont, Massachusetts) 

Mclean Hospital, Dissociative Disorders and Trauma (Belmont, Massachusetts) 


Arbour-HRI Hospital (Brookline, Massachusetts) 

Mclean Hospital, Hill Center For Women (Belmont, Massachusetts) 

Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, Florida),trauma%2C%20other%20war%2Drelated%20trauma 

West Coast: 

Outpatient: (Marin County, California) (Los Angeles) (UCI Health--  Orange, California) 

West Coast, Adults: 

Inpatient: (Torrance, California) 

Finding Legal Representation:

Of course, you can always contact us, and we will do our best to help you or put you in touch with somebody who can. 

Get Help: Text
bottom of page