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Are Parents Liable if Their Kid is a Bully?

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on June 25, 2012 9:46 AM

Bullying is not just a national issue, it's an international one. In June, an Australian former judge said that parent liability for bullying should be the law in Australia.

That raises the question of parent liability for bullies in the United States.

The issue of bullying is a big one as more and more states regulate what the term "bully" really means and how and when a bully can be liable for their actions.

So as a parent, can you be held liable if your child is a bully?

The short answer is yes: in some circumstances you can be liable as a parent.

Parents can be criminally or civilly liable for their children's actions between around age eight or ten, until the child reaches the age of majority (generally 18).

The types of actions that lead to parents' criminal liability generally don't fall within the same category as bullying. But in some states, such as California, a parent can be criminally liable for failing to properly supervise or control their child if the child causes significant damage (Cal Penal Code 272).

There's also the issue of civil liability.

Parents can be civilly liable for negligent supervision of their children. If a parent has reason to know their child is doing something that could be harmful and fails to control those actions, any injury the kid causes can be legally blamed on the parents.

The issue here isn't whether or not the parent is able to stop the bullying. A parent will be liable if they know their kid is acting like a bully and don't try to change the child's behavior.

If you hear from a teacher or a parent or another kid that your child may be acting like a bully, make sure to address the problem. Know what you can do to stop bullying and help your child understand the impact of their actions.

Acting proactively to stop bullying before it gets out of hand can prevent parent liability and, more importantly, end the harassment. And if your kid is charged with bullying, you may want to consult an attorney.

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