The Danger of Bullying and False Bullying Claims
There is a new limited series playing right now on HBO called “Big Little Lies.” One of the significant storylines on the show revolves around two children: Ziggy and Amabella. Amabella is being bullied, and she has accused Ziggy, the son of a single mom who is new to town, of bullying her. Ziggy denies it.
This storyline strikes a tone with many who watch the show, especially parents of young children. No parent wants his or her child to be bullied. When it happens, everyone wants to know that everything is being done to resolve it.
To help with this, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year, which Governor McAuliffe has since signed into law, that requires all Virginia principals to notify parents of bullies and bullies’ victims within five days of any report of bullying.
What Is Bullying?
Let’s start at the beginning with the legal definition of bullying. According to the Code of Virginia, bullying is “any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma.” There are three parts to this legal definition that need to be understood.
The first phrase in this definition demonstrates that bullying requires the threat and/or reality of physical harm, intimidation, or humiliation. The subject of the bullying is a “victim.” The second phrase shows that the bully must have some form of control or power over the victim. This is the purpose of the bullying activity. The third phrase, unfortunately, means that the subject of the bullying has been victimized and harmed in some way.
The law includes cyber bullying, but it does not include any antagonism toward another person. It clarifies that “ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict” are not bullying.
What Is Being Done about Bullying?
In 2014, Virginia law required all school boards to implement policies and procedures that would educate employees about bullying and the need to create a bully-free environment. This is a comforting step, but teachers and educators cannot be everywhere at the same time. Bullying still occurs. Sometimes, this leads to damaging consequences for victims.
What Is Being Done about False Bullying Claims?
Do not forget to look at the opposite perspective, though. Going back to “Big Little Lies,” the show on HBO, Ziggy has been accused of bullying, but there is no evidence against him. The victim, Amabella, has identified him, but Ziggy denies it. The bullying has escalated now with the presence of bite marks on Amabella’s shoulder, but Ziggy still says he did not do it. Following this storyline, next week’s post will look at the reliability of bite marks as legal evidence. As of the time of this writing, we do not know how the storyline will end, but the promos for episode 6 make it clear that the parents will escalate this situation to a dangerous degree.
Just as it is important to have anti-bullying measures in place, it is equally important to safeguard against false accusations. “Innocent until proven guilty” should apply not only to the courtroom but also to accusations of this nature. And again, teasing and other forms of name calling, although often not nice or appropriate, won't (and shouldn't) rise to the level of criminal conduct.
While this post has focused on bullying claims, anyone who is being accused of committing harm against another person, especially when it leads to criminal charges, deserves a fair hearing.
In these situations, you need a strong defense attorney to examine the evidence against you and help you decide what to do next. If this is you, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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