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Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: There's a nine-year-old boy on our block who bullies and threatens my seven-year-old son as well as other children. After an incident where this boy deliberately rode a bicycle into a child in my care, I attempted to speak to his parents. Since then the parents are very hostile towards us and the boy seems to be empowered and now goes as far as to follow my son and tell him he can't pass their house, or he follows my son up our driveway to bother him while he is playing in our yard. Do we have any legal recourse and are the parents in any way legally liable for their child's threatening behavior? What should I do?

A: You do have legal recourse in a situation like this, and yes, a parent can be held legally responsible for a child's behavior. Call your local police department and ask to speak with someone who works with juvenile offenders. She will be able to tell you the steps to take to make sure that your son is not hurt. You have taken reasonable steps to help your son deal with the other child, but since the behaviors are escalating you'll want to investigate other options. If you have an attorney, you may also want to check with him about other legal steps you can take.

Find out if the boy has been harassing other children in the neighborhood. The other parents may be willing to band together with you to get some relief from this situation.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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