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Your child has been accused of bullying at school. When you were a child, that just meant after-school detention and a note from the teacher. It was frowned upon, but it wasn't a serious issue in the grand scheme of things.

You need to know that bullying is being addressed far more seriously today. In fact, California passed legal statues, including the "Safe Place to Learn Act," specifically to combat bullying. This gives students more rights and makes certain actions illegal.

For instance, that act says that students have an "inalienable right" to go to school on a campus that makes them feel peaceful, secure and safe. Anything that violates this, such as extensive bullying, violates the students' rights.

The California Educational Code delves a bit deeper into what constitutes bullying, though you'll see that it's still somewhat open-ended. The code says that bullying can be verbal or physical. It may even include a written communication, like a text message. These things are not allowed if they cause mental distress or fear. They also are barred if they cause "interference with the victim's studies."

As you can imagine, this does create a bit of a gray area. Your child may say he or she was just joking around and didn't mean any harm. This is common with kids as they grow up and learn how to interact with their peers. The other child may claim to have felt fear and mental distress when the event seems minor from your point of view. At a time like this, it is very important to understand these new laws and your legal options.

Source: FindLaw, "Specific State Laws Against Bullying," accessed Jan. 4, 2018

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