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A trial in Baltimore shows how dismissive authorities can be of reports of bullying

Opinion /Editorial for the Baltimore Sun, Dec. 27, 2011  By Ellen A. Callegary, Esq.

ELLEN A. CALLEGARY, ESQ., a practicing attorney for over thirty years and a founding partner of the Law Offices of Ellen A. Callegary, P.A., focuses on special education, disability, and family law issues. Ellen represents children and adults with disabilities to help them get appropriate services such as special education and rehabilitation services throughout the State. She also helps families through the guardianship, mental health, and health care decision making processes.

According to the Maryland State Department of Education, there were 3,818 incidents of bullying in Maryland schools during the 2009-2010 school year, and reports of bullying have been increasing over the past three years. The harmful results of this increased bullying are more than just bruised arms and hurt feelings.

Maryland law requires school staff to report bullying. As the state Department of Education noted in its model policy to address bullying: “Sometimes regarded as a ‘rite of passage,’ bullying and harassment can no longer be regarded as such. During the past two decades, the often devastating effects of bullying and harassment have evidenced themselves on the well-being of students and the climate of schools.”

Last week, in a Baltimore City courtroom, a city public school principal attempted to defend his inaction to protect students by testifying that bullying is “a buzz word” of the moment. Edmund and Shawna Sullivan said that their then-9-year-old son, who has disabilities, was repeatedly beaten at his elementary school by other students, who then targeted their daughter when she defended her brother.