Zero-Tolerance Policies on Bullying

October is National Bullying prevention month and this is a very important cause to me because of my experience with bullying.  It happens at an alarming rate,  2.7 million children were bullied in the United States in 2010.  Many states have adopted anti-bullying laws to help reduce the rate of bullying and related suicides in their state.  Unfortunately bullying and the related suicides have continued.  I have seen people comment on facebook that they wish there was a law in their state.  There has been a law in my state, Ohio, since 2007 but I am not sure how much it has helped.

Recently a local school in Ohio had at least four suicides related to Bullying over a two year period.   I would still recommend that you look up the law in your state so that you are aware how your state defines bullying and what your rights are.  In Ohio The Ohio Legal Rights Services is one of many good resources  for legal advice.  On their site I found a synopsis of the anti bullying law in Ohio and what to do if your child is bullied.  It does provide good tips such as reporting it to your school and also to contact a lawyer if that does not help.  Next week I am going to be posting my thoughts on what to do based on my own experiences.

On the Ohio Legal Rights Services website it states that every school in Ohio needs to have an anti-bullying law.  Our school has a policy and I have had it quoted to me many times.

My schools zero tolerance policy:

ZERO TOLERANCE: No form of violent, disruptive, or
inappropriate behavior including excessive truancy will be

How I have seen this applied in my son’s case is the other kid hits my kid or taunts him and then when my kid hit the other kid my son was punished because there is “Zero Tolerance”.  The principal would actually say he knew my son was provoked and he was really sorry but he had to punish my son for retaliating.  Great policy and great enforcement of it, not.  I understand my son shouldn’t have hit the other kid but the school needs to deal with the other child that was doing the taunting to begin with.

I recently found an article by a psychologist that analyzes why anti-bullying and zero tolerance laws do not work.   I agree with most of what is said.  Yes students should be taught how to deal with aggression and I am going to cover that in next weeks post.  I think that the bully should receive some type of intervention, and punishment or consequences may not be the best way to deal with it.

The reason students need to be taught how to deal with aggression is because even the best schools and teachers can not be everywhere.  I found a great article about a school in NY that empowers students to help another student if they witness an incident on bullying.  For example my son would get bullied at the bus stop where there were no adults to intervene.  We had to teach my son how to handle the aggressor without getting into a fight.  My son believed that fighting would make the other kid stop but in our case the bully continued harassing my son.

From discussions with other kids and parents in the neighborhood this bully was constantly harrassing other kids.  From my brief interaction with that kids parents and accounts from other parents it was quite clear this bully’s parents were not addressing the issue and had no intention of doing so.

It was always the fault of the other child involved.  In my opinion what they should be doing is figuring out why their kid has so many issues with so many other kids at school and in the neighborhood.  Clearly my kid was not completely innocent and I as a parent dealt with that and took him to therapy to work on his behaviors.  As a parent it is important to know when to stick up for your child and when your child is having an issue that needs to be addressed.

The schools could actually help in this type of scenario.  Instead of just having a zero tolerance policy involving punishment the schools should have to implement a different type of intervention.  If the child is involved in more than one incident then someone should take the time to figure out why.  I completely agree with the concept that behavior is a form of communication.  What is the bully communicating?  I personally think they have a low self esteem themselves and it is a cry for attention and help.


  1. Thank you for sharing the article. I just shared it on my FB page as well. I agree with most of what you said, but in our case I do not believe the lead bully has poor self-esteem. I believe at the time she bullied my child, she actually had an abundance of self-esteem. The problem in my opinion was related to the highly competitive school climate where being number one is more important than being kind and to her parents belief that she could do no wrong. The mother actually told me she was okay with her behavior.

    • Sue – thanks for stopping by! Your book is on my list of books to read but I have read some of your story on your blog. I just wonder why does a kid want to be “number one?” It is sometimes a competitive environment and it is a shame that it leads to bullying other kids. If they were confident with themselves maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to put other kids down or even feel the need to be “number one”. Either way the bully that went after your daughter needed to sit down with someone to help her work through whatever her issues are. I always say everyone could really benefit from therapy on some level and clearly the girl’s mother needed some therapy too!

  2. I have to tell you that my oldest was also sent home in a zero tolerance incident. He was attacked and protected himself. The particular VP who sent him home could not produce the zero tolerance policy and could not tell us how it was applied. We subsequently had our children removed from his supervision and they were then guided by the VP with a background in special education.

    It is has been proven that zero tolerance is proportionality over applied to those with disabilities. Why is anyone’s guess but I am sure ignorance about disabilities and inadequate teachers and administrators covering up their own malfeasance would top the list of reasons.

    I would like to see a civil rights lawsuit brought to prove this policy is unconstitutional. I know that the federal courts in NY have held it unconstitutional but it never went anywhere. Any law or rule that is unclear is voidable. Problem is that those mostly affected by this policy have better things to spend their money on, like therapy for their children rather than fighting the school districts.So far OCR has refused to broach the subject.

    • That is really good point. One time I found information where people in my state were trying to reform the zero tolerance law. At the time I didn’t have the time to provide any assistance but I should really look into that again. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Bullying is something that will always be around…humans will fight and be mean it is in our nature. We as parents need to prepare our children in the instice that they are bullied, and how to better stand up for themselves when we are not around.

  4. I dislike these laws for the same reason. I saw them misapplied at my HS growing up. I, too, was bullied, even physically, but none of the administrators would help.

    Could you address this in your son’s IEP? A school can not punish a student for his or her disability. What about working in his reaction to the bullies into the IEP? My parents did something similar with my brother, who has Aspergers.

    • Marfmom, Thank you so much for stopping by. You make a good point. I looked into at the time and they were able to discipline him. I think I remember the distinction and why they were able to but I haven’t had enough coffee yet so I better wait. But I will definitely discuss in an upcoming post because it really is important & I am so glad that you brought it up.
      He isn’t having the issue now and the school placement where he is now definitely more about supports than disciplining him. Working on specific actions to bullies in the IEP – i like that a lot and will definitely look into. This weekend I am going to be writing tips for parents for bullying and I was going to focus more on what we can do for our child because we really can’t depend on the school.

  5. Thank you for your post! It is sad that we as humans can be so crule and in turn hurt someone so much that they end their own life:( The only thing sadder is that there is no end in sight. No matter what laws are put in place to stop bullying it will still happen. Humans are flawed and will always find a way to pick out the “weaker” links..It sounds mean but it is the truth. If only we could just say ” you can’t be mean” and that be it but it is not the case. As parents we have to teach out children to stand up for themselves and not to take the bullying…..AT ALL COST, don’t we owe it to our children?

    • Thank you for stopping by & commenting. It is really such a shame that we can’t just say “be nice!” or “you can’t be mean” and it be all better! We do owe it to our children to teach them to stand up for themselves. And most importantly teach them confidence in themselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: