Signs Your Child May Be Being Bullied

Harassment, intimidation, and bullying are shockingly common among students in grades 6-12. In New Jersey specifically, a 2023 study found that the state had the seventh-highest rate of bullying in the country. In the United States overall, between 20 and 30 percent of students will experience bullying at some point. Only 40 percent will report the occurrence to an adult. The point is it is possible that your child is being bullied, harassed, or intimidated — whether they have told you about it or not. 

You may also find yourself on the other end of the equation. No parent wants to hear that their child is the alleged instigator in a bullying event, but that is the reality some face. If your child has been accused of harassment, intimidation, and bullying in their New Jersey school, contact the Lento Law Firm today. Our Criminal Defense Team helps children and parents across the state deal with bullying charges. If it is your first time dealing with an offense like this, our experienced attorneys will take care of guiding you through the process. To discuss your child's case, call 888-535-3686 or fill out our online contact form

Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) in New Jersey 

New Jersey has a very aggressive HIB policy. Not only can a student face educational consequences (like expulsion), but they may also be looking at criminal charges. The state's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act is quite thorough and covers the following acts perpetrated by a student: 

  • Physical or emotional harm of another student 
  • Damaging another student's property 
  • Giving another student a reasonable fear of bodily harm or property damage (intimidation) 
  • Insulting and/or demeaning another student or group of students 
  • Creating a hostile environment for other students or interfering with their education 
  • Hazing and online activity (cyberbullying) can also fall under HIB 

The enforcement of New Jersey's HIB policy can be a bit problematic for students. It's great that the state is attempting to curb the rise of bullying, but the excessive authority given to school officials leads to unnecessary legal trouble for students who do not deserve it. Here are some innocuous situations that could theoretically end with a HIB offense: 

  • Your elementary student accidentally hurts another child while playing at recess, and the child claims the physical contact was intimidating 
  • Your student texts a joke to another student, who takes offense 
  • Your student posts a TikTok of another student, who is embarrassed and claims your student meant to cause emotional stress 
  • Your student compliments the looks or clothing of another student, who interprets it as an unwanted sexual advance 
  • Your student gives another student advice about their clothing, hair, or fitness, and the other student claims your child was insulting their physical appearance 

Administrators are often over-aggressive with HIB charges because their bigger concern is the potential legal trouble they could face if they don't take action. Today's kids are increasingly sensitive, meaning that nearly any statement or action involving protected classes may cause enough offense to be an HIB violation. In fact, it's possible that many students who are facing HIB offense charges could also be considered victims under the same circumstances.  

Bully or Victim: Can Your Child Be Both? 

Movies and television would have you believe there is an archetype for both bullies and the kids they harass. This could not be further from the truth. You can not tell these things strictly by the way someone looks or by their background. Any child could theoretically be a bully. Likewise, any child could be a victim of bullying. But are the two mutually exclusive? Absolutely not. 

It's very possible for so-called bullies to be victims of bullying or harassment themselves. There is even a term used to describe these children: bully-victims. It may seem odd that a bullied child would turn around and perpetrate the same negative behavior against someone else, but on a psychological level, it makes a ton of sense. Bully-victims are likely to assert power over other children as a way to compensate for the lack of control they feel in their own lives. By becoming the perpetrator, they are attempting to prevent themselves from again becoming the victim. 

All that to say, just because your child is facing HIB charges does not mean that they are a bad kid. Bullying usually occurs during a time in a child's life when they are still figuring out who they are and how the world works, which can lead to contradicting response behavior. If you suspect there is a chance your child has been bullied despite HIB charges against them, you could very well be right. But how can you tell? 

Signs Your Child May Be Being Bullied 

Here are a few recognizable signs that bully-victims may exhibit: 

Psychological Stress 

Bully-victims can suffer from severe anxiety, depression, and loneliness. This might be because they know — consciously or subconsciously — what it feels like to be on the receiving end of bullying. Children experiencing this kind of stress may sometimes abuse substances, like alcohol or pills, as a way to cope. 

Emotional Instability 

Harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools are often made worse by a bullied student's inability to control their emotions. While this is not uncommon with pre-teens and teenagers, bully-victims tend to have short fuses and are prone to outbursts. This can explain why they take their frustration out on other students. Coincidentally, it can also make their own victimhood more frequent. Why? Because knee-jerk outrage is a reaction that some kids find funny, making it more likely that a bully continues trying to elicit these responses. It can be a vicious cycle. 

Physical Aggression 

Students who are bully-victims have a tendency to respond to stressful situations with outbursts of physical aggression, similar to someone who has experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. If you notice your child seems very tightly wound and defensive or that they are quick to introduce physicality during arguments, it could be a stress response to previous bullying incidents in which they were the victim.  

Difficulty Fitting In 

Does your child have trouble fitting in socially? Do they have a lot of friends, or do they find genuine personal connections hard to come by? Are they spending nights and weekends hanging out with classmates, or are they alone in their room? The answers to these questions may provide insight into whether your child facing charges for HIB violations is also a victim themselves. 

Bullies are often popular or, at the very least, retain a high social status among their peers. The same can not usually be said for bully-victims. The experiences of these students can leave them angry, skeptical of others, and anti-social in general — not a great combination for making friends. 

Low Self-Esteem 

Bully-victims commonly have extremely low opinions of their self-worth. This may stem from a feeling of guilt; they are contributing to the bullying of others while knowing how it feels to be on the other end of the equation. It's a complicated emotion for a young person to experience, and it is reasonable that it would result in self-esteem issues. 

Discovering that your child is a bully-victim will not magically make the HIB charges disappear, but it gives a possible explanation of the behavior and allows school administrators and judges to potentially see your child in another light. When your child's future is on the line, it's important to consider any information that could sway a decision. 

The Lento Law Firm Defends New Jersey Students From HIB Charges  

Harassment, intimidation, and bullying charges in New Jersey are a double-edged sword. On one hand, there is school-implemented discipline to consider, such as suspension, expulsion, or alternative placement. That alone is enough to derail your child's plans for college and possibly more — but it gets worse. New Jersey's HIB laws can also bring criminal charges against a student accused of bullying, which can result in juvenile delinquency proceedings. When you choose the Lento Law Firm to represent your child, you are getting a qualified and experienced legal team that can handle both school and criminal proceedings.    

As a New Jersey parent, the worst thing you can do when your child is charged with an HIB violation is to attempt to handle the situation alone. The Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm helps students at all grade levels — from elementary to high school and beyond — plan and execute a defense plan designed to get them the best possible outcome. Our firm deals with student discipline cases nationwide, which means we know what it takes to protect your student's rights in these situations.  

For a consultation about your child's HIB case, call us today at 888-535-3686. You can also reach us by filling out our online contact form

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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