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Bullying At School

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2024 | Bullying

School bullying is a major crisis. At least 20% of students have experienced being bullied. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social (including cyberbullying). Being bullied causes significant emotional harm, and in extreme cases, may lead to self-harm or even suicide.

In Michigan, public school districts are required to enact anti-bullying policies. The most important thing a parent can do, to protect their child, is to understand the law, and their school’s district’s policies.


 First, and most importantly, take care of your child and ensure they have the support they need at home and with experienced medical and mental health professionals.

Second, encourage and support your child in reporting each and every instance of bullying, including naming names. This is a difficult process, especially for a child who fears further retaliation, but a school is required only to prevent bullying of which it has been made reasonably aware. Therefore it is critical that you document the incidents of bullying in detail.

Should the school not take care of the problem, make sure the school is made aware of the seriousness of the problem. Here is a sample letter (insert link) you can use if the school has not adequately responded to protect your child.

Learn Your Rights

Find the school district’s bullying policy. You should be able to find it on the school website. Many public schools use the same model policy that says something like this:

The Principal (or other designated administrator) shall promptly investigate and document all complaints about bullying, aggressive or other behavior that may violate this policy. The investigation must be completed as promptly as the circumstances permit after a report or complaint is made. If the investigation finds an instance of bullying or aggressive behavior has occurred, it will result in prompt and appropriate remedial action. This may include up to expulsion for students, up to discharge for employees, exclusion for parents, guests, volunteers and contractors, and removal from any official position and/or a request to resign for Board members. Individuals may also be referred to law enforcement or other appropriate officials.

The District shall report incidents of bullying to the Department of Education on an annual basis according to the form and procedures established by the Department of Education.


 Next, find out who the Freedom of Information Act coordinator is for the school district. This should be on their website. If not, address it to the superintendent. Email that person something like this:

We are requesting certain records concerning bullying behavior.

Please provide the annual reports provided to the Department of Education for the school years (choose the current and previous one or two school years).

 We are requesting all complaints of bullying and all investigation reports for 2022-2023 appropriately redacted and de-identified to show the incidents complained of, the investigations undertaken, the findings of the investigations, and the discipline received by the person found responsible.


 “Deidentification” is important because school districts are required to protect students’ privacy under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But you are entitled to your child’s records. The school district likely has something on their website explaining their own FERPA policies.

In addition to making a FOIA request, we also recommend making a request under FERPA to the school district. Again, if you can’t find who their FERPA coordinator is, address it to the superintendent. Say something like:

We are requesting, pursuant to our FERPA rights for our son’s educational records, all the records of investigation of bullying involving him that you are required to keep under policy 5517.01 under your student code of conduct, including records of your investigations, your written summary, your determinations of fact and culpability; records of disciplinary action, and the required notification to us of your conclusions.

 Other Strategies

Seek a meeting with the school principal, and if your child receives special education services, your child’s Individual Education Plan Team, and ask for a meeting to make a safety plan to protect your child.

If your child is physically or sexually assaulted, do not hesitate to file a report with the local police.  You don’t need to have the schools do this, and you certainly don’t need their permission.

Legal Remedies

We urge families to study these policies and use them to protect their child. However, just like bullying at work, there may not be a remedy for bullying at school unless it is based on a protected characteristic.

For example, a child who is bullied on the basis her gender (called sexually derogatory names, sexual shaming on social media) may have a remedy based on sex discrimination laws such as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act or federal laws such as Title IX. A student bullied for sexual orientation or sexual identity may have similar remedies.

Nicholas Roumel has successfully litigated many bullying cases, including student suicide due to bullying, and been a frequent guest speaker at anti-bullying events for school personnel and parents. Here is a sample of one of his presentation.