Students have the right to fully participate in their education, free from fear of discrimination, harassment, or any act of violence. Yet all too often, special needs students face bullying at school. There are state statutes that are designed to protect your child from such traumatic experiences. The better you know the law, the better your chance of protecting your child.

Bullying, as defined by the California Education Code Section 48900(r) , is:

“any severe action directed toward a student that is carried out through physical action, verbally, or by electronic means and then has the effect or is reasonably known it will have the effect of one or more of the following: putting a student in fear of harm to self or property, detrimental effect on physical or mental health, or interference with academics, services, or activities.”

Research has demonstrated conclusively that children with disabilities are significantly more likely than their peers to be the victims of bullying. A study in the British Journal of Learning Support (2008) found that 60% of students with disabilities reported being bullied compared to 25% of the general student population. According to researchers Wall, Wheaton and Zuver (2009) only ten studies have been conducted in the United States on bullying and developmental disabilities.  All studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be victims of bullying than their non-disabled peers.  In addition, the researchers found that the bullying experienced by these children was more chronic in nature and was most often directly related to their disability. Read more about these studies.

In 2009, the Massachusetts Advocates for Children in a survey of nearly 400 parents of children with autism across the state found that 88% of children with autism have been bullied at school ranging from verbal abuse to physical contact.  Read more.

It is the policy of the State of California to afford all persons in public schools, regardless of their disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code, equal rights and opportunities in the educational institutions of the state.  California Compilation of School Discipline Laws and Regulations.

School bus


If your child has experienced bullying, harassment, or any type of discrimination while attending school or school activities, you should know that the law is on your side.  Contact our offices at 760-753-0505 or contact us by email to learn about what remedies are available for you and your child.

Recommended Posts