Florida’s Anti-Bullying Law: Two Years Later, Numbers Vary

Named for Jeffrey Johnston, a Cape Coral teenager who committed suicide after years of bullying by a classmate, Jeffrey’s Law prohibits the bullying or harassment of any public school student and requires each school district in Florida to report all instances of such behavior and notify both the parents of the bully and the parents of the victim. As The Tampa Tribune reports, bullying report numbers across the state were all over the map in the two years after the law was passed.

Enacted in 2008, Jeffrey’s Law defines bullying as “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students,” including:

1. Teasing;
2. Social exclusion;
3. Threats;
4. Intimidation;
5. Stalking;
6. Physical violence;
7. Theft;
8. Sexual or racial harassment;
9. Public humiliation; or
10. Destruction of property.

Harassment, meanwhile is “any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal, or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that:

1. Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property;
2. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or
3. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school.”

“This bill increases transparency and formalizes the ability of schools to protect our children,” said state representative Gary Aubuchon shortly after the law was passed. “Our children are the most important members of our society, and this legislation will keep them safer.”

According to The Tribune’s Sherri Ackerman, “nine districts have reported zero cases in the two years after Florida’s anti-bullying law took effect and required them to document and investigate every complaint.” 4,000 bullying cases were reported from 2008 to 2010 in the Palm Beach County School District in South Florida. During the same time, the number of bullying cases in Miami skyrocketed from 7 to 802. “[A]bout half of Florida’s districts reported fewer than 10 cases during the two years,” Ackerman writes.

School officials blame the disparity on both reporting inconsistencies and different understandings of what constitutes bullying. The Tribune notes that “[t]he cases…can land school districts in court as more parents turn to litigation” to protect their kids.

The Ft. Lauderdale lawyers at Anidjar & Levine, P.A. are pleased to serve clients throughout South Florida, including in Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Hialeah, in a variety of matters including personal injury law. We are dedicated to providing high quality, professional legal services and make every effort to get the best results for our clients. If your child has been the victim of bullying, our experienced South Florida child injury attorneys are prepared to aggressively defend you and your child’s rights and help get you the compensation you deserve.

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