Can Parents Be Held Liable For Their Kids’ Bullying?

Bullying has, unfortunately, become an oft-committed offense, especially among teens and young adults, with some statistics showing that about 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of bullying. Moreover, recent bullying statistics show that bullying is on the rise among young adults, teens, and children, in large part due to the increase in cyber-bullying. In fact, about 42 percent of young people report being bullied while online, and one in four young people have been verbally attacked more than once.

The issue of whether parents can be held liable if their child bullies another child has become a hot topic lately, especially in light of the recent case in Florida in which a 12-year-old girl committed suicide after she was bullied by two peers. The two offenders were charged with third-degree felony aggravated stalking, but their parents were not charged – much to the chagrin of authorities and other parents. In fact, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said he would have charged the girls’ parents if he could, but there were no “obvious charges” against them.

Although, under current laws, a parent’s apathy, ignorance, and disregard of their child’s activities does not likely result in criminal liability, in some instances, civil liability might be invoked on parents. In fact, according to Love Our Children USA, 47 states have some kind of parental liability law under which parents may be held responsible for negligent or intentional acts, as well as for crimes, committed by their of their minor children. For instance, civil lawsuits have been brought against parents of alleged bullies based on claims of negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Parental liability claims for bullying can be incredibly difficult, however. The plaintiff must prove that the parents had knowledge of the bullying activity, or that they were grossly negligent in their parental responsibilities, which can be difficult to establish, particularly given that children have access to the Internet and computers in a wide variety of settings.

Although parental criminal liability for bullying is not available under the laws of most jurisdictions, attitudes and laws are changing in this respect. For instance, in California, it is a crime for parents to fail to “exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control” over their children, and Monona, WI (a suburb of Madison, WI) recently passed a new ordinance that holds parents criminally liable if their child bullies another kid.

The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Cogan & Power, P.C. are dedicated to helping the victims of intentional and negligent wrongdoing – including the victims of bullying – obtain the compensation that they deserve from all possible sources. If your child has been the victim of bullying or cyberbullying, contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago injury lawyers.