Category Archives: School Bullying

Daniel Rodriguez Representing Arvin High School Special Needs Bullying Victim

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Daniel Rodriguez, founding partner and president of Rodriguez & Associates, announced in a press conference on Wednesday, October 26, 2022, that his firm is representing a special needs student who was the victim of a bullying incident at Arvin High School.

The victim is a 16-year-old student who has significant learning disabilities. Mr. Rodriguez explained that it is difficult for special needs children to fit in and find acceptance and friends, making them a target for manipulation.

Recorded by student onlookers and posted across social media platforms including Twitter and TikTok, the video showed the student’s evident despair and frustration as a crowd of bystanders, which included at least one security guard, taunted and laughed at him as multiple students shaved his head.

The incident seemingly ended when another student came to the aid of the victim, helping him to a female security guard who carted him away from the situation. Danay Gonzales, an attorney with the firm, says the school never contacted the student’s mother, who learned of the incident from her sister who had seen it online. The school then attempted to blame the bullying on the student.

Arvin High School, which happens to be Mr. Rodriguez’s alma mater, is part of the Kern County School District. Rodriguez stated in the press conference that schools have a legal obligation and duty to protect all students, a standard that was not met considering the outcome of this incident.

“What is going on in the high school district? They all talk about having measures in place. [Bullying is] not just isolated to Arvin High School,” Rodriguez said. “We have a number of other cases.”

An outpouring of support for the victim and public outcry against the school administration was voiced in a protest last week as residents, students, alumni, and family members surrounded the school. School officials issued a statement, assuring the public that they were investigating the incident and that two staff members were placed on administrative leave.

Rodriguez said his office is also conducting a full investigation of the incident and intends to hold responsible both those directly involved and others who failed to protect the student. Since this particular case is against a government-funded public school, the firm must file a government tort claim prior to filing a lawsuit.

The team of award-winning attorneys at Rodriguez & Associates is known for handling complicated and sensitive issues involving minors affected by school bullying, violence, and other in-school incidents. They offer care and compassion for their clients while fighting intently for truth and justice.

About Rodriguez & Associates

Rodriguez & Associates is Kern County’s top personal injury law firm. The lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience. They are an award-winning law firm known to deliver big firm results with small firm service.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 4:06 pm

Understanding Different Types of Bullying

Thursday, September 23, 2021

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one out of every five students (20.2%) has experienced bullying at school. With children back in the classroom across the country after a challenging year of online and hybrid learning, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the forms bullying may take. There are many kinds of bullying, all of which can have a significant negative impact on the physical and mental well-being of a child. In this article, our school bullying attorneys will describe some of the most common forms of bullying.

  1. Physical Bullying: A physical bully may attempt to kick, hit, push, pinch, or otherwise injure another student. They may also attempt to damage another student’s property, such as a textbook or cellphone. There is oftentimes a power disparity between the attacker and their victim. The bully may be stronger or be supported by other children, which leaves the victim unable to defend themselves against attack. Physical bullying can cause lasting physical and emotional harm to the victim. The victim is at risk not only of serious injury, but may also suffer from negative thoughts and feelings, despair, and worsening academic performance.
  2. Verbal Bullying: A bully that uses verbal attacks may resort to insults, name calling, verbal abuse, intimidation, or teasing. Oftentimes, their remarks are racist or homophobic in nature. At times, it can be challenging to differentiate verbal bullying from lighthearted joking amongst friends. However, while verbal bullying may start off as harmless teasing or joking, it can escalate to a extent that it impacts the emotional well-being of the chosen target.
  3. Social Bullying: It can be incredibly challenging to determine whether your child is the victim of social bullying. This form of bullying is usually carried out behind the victim’s back, which is why it may sometimes be referred to as covert bullying. In this situation, the aggressor attempts to humiliate the victim or damage their social reputation. The bully may spread lies or rumors, play nasty jokes, encourage others to exclude the victim from events and gatherings, mimic the victim unkindly, or otherwise cause damage to someone’s social acceptance.
  4. Cyberbullying: defines cyberbullying as “sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.” In some cases, the bully may intentionally share private or personal information about their victim. This can put the victim in great danger and may constitute unlawful or criminal behavior. Cyberbullying can occur over text, through messaging apps, in online forums, over email, or on social media platforms. With a rise in online learning due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, even professional platforms like Zoom have been used for nefarious purposes.

Detecting & Reacting to Bullying

Although it can be difficult to know for certain if your child is being bullied, particularly if they refuse to talk about any behavior you find concerning, there are warning signs to be aware of. You should seek help immediately if your child:

  • Has unexplainable injuries
  • Loses or comes home with damaged books, clothing, or electronics
  • Suffers frequent headaches or illness
  • Can’t sleep or experiences nightmares
  • Has declining grades
  • Losses friends unexpectedly
  • Changes their eating habits drastically
  • Demonstrates self-destructive behaviors

By getting other adults, school staff, medical personnel, and the police involved in the situation as needed, you protect your child from further harm and ensure that the bullying ends. If your child has been a victim of bullying that you feel was not adequately addressed by the school, contact the attorneys at Rodriguez & Associates today.

Posted by highrank at 6:16 pm

California’s Anti-Bullying Laws: What They Are, Whom They Protect

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Any child can become a victim of bullying. Children have the right to attend school safely. If bullying does occur, a child also has the right to receive the support they need from teachers and administrative staff in the event of bullying. Schools, meanwhile, are responsible for developing policies that prohibit bullying and must be held accountable when this type of harm happens.

California has numerous anti-bullying laws and regulations that address both on-campus bullying and cyberbullying (including cyber sexual bullying). The state has a lengthy definition of bullying, which you can read in full at the website. In short, California defines bullying as “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct” directed at one or more pupils that causes fear of harm, negative impacts on physical and mental well-being, poor academic performance, and interference with school activities.

Bullying can take on a multitude of forms including hitting, kicking, spitting, verbal teasing, spreading rumors, sexual touching or assault, and many other harmful acts. Cyberbullying and cyber sexual bullying include acts of bullying that happen over the phone, text message, via a website, social media, or by any other electronic means. 

California’s anti-bullying laws cover cyberbullying that happens off-campus as well as on-campus. 

Any of these acts are harmful on their own. They have also been known to be contributing factors to depression, poor academic performance, suicide, violence towards others, and other tragedies no child should have to witness or experience.  

Bullying laws are meant to protect all students. To that end, school districts are required to adopt policies that prohibit “discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics including immigration status, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.” 

Policies developed and enforced by school districts can include (but are not limited to):

  • Statements that prohibit harassment, intimidation, and bullying
  • Procedures for reporting bullying 
  • Procedures for investigating bullying
  • Support resources for high-risk students (e.g., LGBTQ)
  • Protections for those who file complaints
  • Publications of antidiscrimination, anti-harassment, anti-intimidation, and anti-bullying laws

California school districts are also required to train teachers and school staff on responding to bullying, and to provide mental health services for students that are bullied. 

Every student has the right to attend school and receive an education in a safe environment. When intolerance and discrimination manifest in any form, including school bullying, our attorneys are ready to assist through supportive legal help. 

If your child is the victim of bullying, know that your family is not alone. Please reach out to us today for a free consultation. 

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 6:56 pm

What Evidence Is Needed in a School Bullying Claim?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

School administrators often do not take action against school bullying until damage has already occurred — and if your child has suffered due to this act of violence, you may hold the school district accountable for his or her injuries. You will need to establish with clear evidence that the school failed to uphold its duty of care to your student under federal law.

Holding a School District Accountable for Bullying Under Title IX

If your child suffered bullying due to a protected characteristic under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, this is an act of harassment under federal law. You can hold the district accountable by proving the following elements.

  • Your student is a member of a statutorily protected class, with regards to race, gender, disability, etc.
  • Your student suffered harassment based on the protected class.
  • The bullying is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.
  • At least one school official with authority to act had actual knowledge of the harassment.
  • The school was deliberately indifferent to the bullying.

Non-Protected Bullying Claims

If the nature of the bullying does not have anything to do with a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, you can still file a lawsuit against the school. Schools have a responsibility to provide students with a safe environment to support their education, and the state requires each district to have anti-bullying policies.

You may be able to hold the district liable if any of the following actions occurred.

  • The district failed to adequately protect all of its students against bullying.
  • School personnel witnessed the bullying and failed to prevent or stop it.
  • The bullying occurred as a result of statements or actions by a teacher, coach, or other school official.

To establish the school’s liability in this case, you will need to prove the following elements.

  • A relationship between the school and your student existed.
  • Your student experienced harm that was ultimately foreseeable and fairly direct.
  • The school willfully disregarded your child’s safety.
  • The school used its authority to create an opportunity for bullying that would not have otherwise existed.

What to Do If You Believe Your Child Is a Victim of Bullying

To preserve your child’s right to justice and strengthen your bullying claim, you will need to gather clear and convincing evidence. This evidence may include witness testimony, correspondence with the district and school officials, screenshots and photographs of the harassment, and hospital or therapy records.

If your child tells you he or she is being bullied, take the following steps to preserve and collect this information.

  • Talk to your child. Ask him or her for details about the bullying and record the information in as much detail as possible.
  • Collect any tangible evidence of the bullying. Screenshot messages and emails, record audio messages, and take videos and photographs of any visible injuries.
  • If your child has to seek medical treatment or therapy for the bullying, save all records from these visits.
  • Contact the school about the bullying and file a complaint. Record information on who you talk to and when any meetings take place.
  • Document the school’s responses to the bullying. If any agreed-upon resolutions take place, ask for the school to put them in writing and officials to sign the agreements.
  • Review the school’s anti-bullying policy and save copies for your records.
  • Contact a school bullying attorney for legal advice.

School bullying lawsuits can be contentious and difficult to prove, but if your child’s school fails to take action against his or her bully, an attorney can help. Your attorney will advocate for your child’s best interests during each stage of your case. If you have not done so already, contact a California school bullying attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

Posted by highrank at 8:41 pm

Can I Sue the School if My Child Was Bullied?

Monday, August 24, 2020

School bullying is a major problem in the United States. According to StopBullying.Gov, a federal anti-bullying initiative, 19% of American high school students reported experiencing bullying at school within the past year.

Bullying can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences — and you may wonder if you are eligible to file a lawsuit against your child’s school. Schools are liable for bullying under certain circumstances.

When Is a School Liable for Bullying?

School districts are liable for the actions of the schools and teachers under their jurisdiction, and all schools must have anti-bullying policies in place to protect students. School districts are liable for bullying if the bullying involved one of the following circumstances.

  • The school district failed to adequately protect all of its students against bullying.
  • School personnel witnessed the bullying and failed to prevent it.
  • The bullying occurred due to a school personnel’s comments or actions.

You can also hold a school liable if the bullying violated federal regulations and your child’s school receives federal funding. For example, if the bullying involves racial discrimination, you can file a lawsuit against the school under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act.

If your child faces bullying because he or she has a disability, you can file a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title IX protects students who experience sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment at school. Each type of lawsuit involves its own burden of proof, and you will need to consult with an attorney prior to filing a claim.

How to Sue a California School District for Bullying and Harassment

Public schools and some private institutions are immune from most lawsuits because of governmental immunity, but you can sue a school under certain circumstances. If you file a lawsuit under a federal anti-discrimination statute, you will need to adhere to specific federal filing requirements. If you wish to pursue a lawsuit against your child’s school in California civil court, you will need to follow the California Tort Claims Act.

The Act sets forth specific requirements for filing a personal injury lawsuit against the government, which includes school districts and their employees. A government agency is responsible for the actions of their employees if the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment or carrying out a government function.

For example, if a teacher witnesses students bullying your child during class and failed to act, the school district would be liable for his or her actions since the teacher was carrying out his or her job duties at the time of the incident.

Prior to filing your Bakersfield school bullying lawsuit, you will need to send the school district a notice of claim within six months of the bullying incident. This notice will inform the school district of your intent to sue, and you will need to include the following information.

  • Your name and address, as well as your mailing address
  • The date, location, and circumstances of the bullying
  • A general description of your child’s damages
  • The names of any school employees who caused the bullying or failed to prevent it
  • The amount of damages you want to claim, if the total is less than $10,000. If you are pursuing over $10,000 in damages, you do not need to include the dollar amount.

It is best to speak with a school bullying attorney before filing your claim or writing the notice of claim. Your attorney will understand whether or not your case qualifies for legal action, as well as the specific requirements and filing deadlines you will need to adhere to when pursuing a claim against a school district. If you have not done so already, speak to your personal injury attorney in Bakersfield as soon as possible to strategize your next steps.

Posted by highrank at 1:53 pm

Rodriguez & Associates Attorneys on The Great Trials Podcast

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Daniel Rodriguez, Chantal A. Trujillo and Danay Gonzalez were guests on the Great Trials Podcast on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020. Listeners got a behind the scenes look of the Taft Unified School District v. Cleveland case.

In 2013, Bryan Oliver, opened fire with a shot gun at Taft High School, seriously injuring his classmate, Bowe Cleveland. Cleveland was shot in the chest and has since underwent more than 30 surgeries.

Rodriguez & Associates represented Cleveland and after suing the Taft Unified School District, he was awarded $3.8 million in damage.

Listen to the episode by clicking here or listen below:

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 3:38 pm

What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied at School

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

It wasn’t so long ago that bullying at school was considered just another part of growing up and something children were meant to work out between themselves. Fortunately, that attitude is changing dramatically, and today more parents, schools, and lawmakers treat bullying as an unacceptable activity that in some cases is even criminal.

Nonetheless, bullying persists, and the consequences can have long-term effects on a person’s mental and physical health long past childhood. In some cases, the repercussions of bullying are fatal: Rodriguez & Associates is currently representing a family of a teenage boy who was bullied so relentlessly it eventually drove him to suicide. In the United States, bullying is also closely linked to school shootings.

Parents can teach and protect their children by gaining a better understanding of what to do when their child is a victim of bullying, whether that means going to teachers or going to law enforcement. 

If you believe your child is being bullied at school, consider the following steps:

1. Learn to recognize signs of bullying.

In many cases, your child won’t walk right up to you and say they are being bullied by another student. But certain signs indicate the potential presence of bullying.

Random, unexplained physical injuries, such as scrapes or bruises, could mean violence. A classic sign is your child not wanting to go to school: they may try to avoid it by claiming they are sick. When this starts to happen frequently, you may have a bullying problem on your hands. Other potential indicators include damaged or missing property, failing grades, and your child suddenly wanting to avoid social activities.

While none of these things are exclusive to bullying, any one of them could indicate problems at school and should be investigated thoroughly and immediately.

2. Don’t overreact.

As a parent, your natural inclination might be to head straight to school to confront the bully. Or you may feel the need to voice out loud, in front of your child, the unfairness of the situation and how angry it makes you.

But emotionally charged statements and reactions, however well intended, might actually work against you, as they might make your child feel less safe. For example, you confronting the bully on the school playground could actually lead to further teasing or worse for your child, making them feel even less safe at school than they were before.

Instead, make it a point to listen calmly as your child explains the situation in their own terms. Let them do most of the talking, so they can feel free to express their true feelings and concerns. Try to avoid making any judgements or assumptions, especially about the other child.

3. Talk to your child’s teacher.

It is important to get the teacher involved early in the process, preferably as soon as your child starts talking to you or someone else about being bullied. Set up a time to meet with the teacher and explain the situation. Don’t simply make the assumption that the teacher already knows and simply hasn’t done anything. In many cases, teachers aren’t even aware that their students are being bullied.

Once made aware, though, they must become part of the solution. Follow up with the teacher after your initial conversation to make sure the school is using the resources it should have in place to address bullying. If the situation is still not resolved after getting the teacher involved, you may need to go to the school’s principal.

4. Go to the police.

In some extreme cases, bullying can turn to actual violence or threats of it. When that happens, it’s a crime and it’s time to get law enforcement involved. In light of tragic events that have happened at schools across the U.S. over the years, both schools and police take these threats of violence very seriously.

If taking such drastic measures makes you uncomfortable or you are not sure how to proceed, you can also consult an attorney. A lawyer with experience in handling cases of bullying can counsel you through the situation and help you understand your options as well as when it makes most sense to involve the police or pursue litigation.

Students of all ages have a right to attend school without fear of being harassed or bullied about who they are—their beliefs, appearance, ethnicity, and all the other factors that make up a human being. Rodriguez & Associates is committed to helping parents put an end to bullying and make schools safe, welcoming, open environments for all children to attend. Reach out to us today to discuss your concerns.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 5:30 pm

What Schools Can Learn from the Bowe Cleveland Case About Gun Violence

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

When it comes to gun violence in schools, questions over how to best protect our students are becoming more and more critical to answer. Last year was a record year for gun violence in schools, and students are at risk of not only mass tragedies on the scale of Parkland and Sandy Hook, but also of individual targeting.

A case Rodriguez & Associates took to trial this year underscores this issue, and raises even more questions, specifically around how much schools themselves should or can do when it comes to preventing gun violence on premises.

Bowe Cleveland, a former student at Taft Union High School in Kern County, California, was shot in the chest with a shotgun by fellow student Bryan Oliver on January 10, 2013.

Oliver pleaded no contest to two accounts of attempted murder without premeditation and was sentenced to 27 years to life. But Cleveland argued that school administrators ignored red flags about Oliver and could have prevented the attack in the first place. After suing the school district, Cleveland was awarded $3.8 million in damages this past July. The case was the second school shooting in the U.S. to ever go to civil trial.  The first such trial was sometime in the 1990’s.

Cleveland accused the school district of ignoring numerous threats made by the shooter in the ten months leading up to the shooting. Those red flags included threats by the shooter of bringing a gun to school and shooting 50 students and blowing up the school auditorium during a pep rally. The school administrators received reports not only from students but even from teachers and staff that they were scared of what the shooter might do.

Cleveland also accused the school district of violating their own written safety protocol.  This written safety protocol called for a threat assessment plan on how to deal with students making such threats.  The school district came up with a weak plan and then failed to modify it in the face of continuing threats made by the shooter.  Finally, Cleveland accused the school district of violating their own written safety protocol because they were more concerned with their school image than the safety of their kids.

Cleveland suffered severe injuries after the shooting that required 30 surgeries over the past six and a half years. During his opening statement in the second phase of the trial, attorney Daniel Rodriguez said Cleveland faced lifelong continuing medical problems due to the shooting, and that he still deals with lead pellets embedded in his body.

This case, however, highlights the need for schools to not simply pay lip service to student safety but take the necessary actions to help prevent gun violence on school property.

While it is impossible to predict every single situation that might occur, raising awareness and taking steps in the face of suspicious activity could prevent cases like Bowe’s from repeating themselves in the future.

At Rodriguez & Associates, we stand behind the communities we serve, including schools and the students that attend them day after day. We hope this verdict can serve as a wake-up call across the nation, and stand willing to assist and play our role in making a change.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 8:06 pm

Curran Middle School Bullying

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bullying is a problem that’s been around for centuries, but the type of threats and the severity of consequences have changed in recent years. Today’s students can become victims of cyberbullying, or using electronic devices and equipment such as cell phones and computers to bully a victim via text message, email, or social media. Cyberbullying has been linked to depression, anxiety, and even suicide in young students. Unfortunately, the halls of many middle schools are not safe from this form of bullying or others.

Recent Cyberbullying Investigation at Curran Middle Schools

In February 2017, police launched an investigation at Curran Middle School in the face of new threats against students. While they made no arrests, they did receive a confession from two students who admitted to creating a social media account. The students said they created the account for attention and had no intention of doing anything. According to the original complaint a few months ago, there had been multiple social media threats listing students targeted for a supposed school shooting and the dates on which the shootings would occur.

As of now, there is no confirmation that new findings relate to these prior threats. However, police have identified one 14-year-old girl as a suspect. Ultimately, the District Attorney’s Office will decide whether a crime took place. Investigators are still digging into the source of the original threats. While police say they don’t believe Carron Middle School students are in any danger, many parents are keeping their children home from school. This recent cyberbullying event raises many questions and concerns about bullying.

The Dangers of School Bullying

Bullying is a real threat to students. In spite of efforts of communities, schools, and parents to put an end to bullying, it still pervades thousands of schools all over the world. “Bullying” describes any type of intimidation one person imposes on another. Students may become victims of verbal, physical, or psychological bullying. All forms can have serious ramifications on a person’s life, including:

  • Physical harm and injuries
  • Health problems and complaints
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Poor self-confidence and self-image
  • Emotional and mental trauma
  • Feelings of isolation from friends and family
  • Problems with fear, anxiety, and depression
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Problems in school or with grades
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

In the event of bullying, parents may be able to hold a school liable for damages. This may be the case if a negligent staff member contributed to your child’s harm, such as by failing to supervise children or take reasonable action to prevent bullying. The courts may hold a school liable for negligence or intentional acts if teachers contribute to bullying or student harassment.

When to Speak to an Attorney

Not all cases of school bullying are grounds for personal injury lawsuits, but many are. Most school bullying attorneys offer free initial consultations, giving you the opportunity to speak to a licensed lawyer about your child’s particular situation. If the lawyer believes your case has merit due to someone else’s negligence or intent to harm, you may want to pursue a lawsuit against the school or school district. A lawsuit can result in recovery for your child’s damages, including his/her personal injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

A local attorney can help you learn your rights as a parent and your options moving forward. An attorney can also file a claim against the school district on your behalf and represent you during settlement negotiations and a trial if your case goes to court. For more information about a bullying case at Curran Middle School, speak to the attorneys at Rodriguez & Associates of Bakersfield.

Posted by highrank at 9:23 pm