What parents can legally do to stomp out bullying in schools

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SHERRARD, Illinois – It's a difficult challenge for more and more parents - how to get a grasp on bullying in their child's schools. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, over 67% of students feel schools don’t handle bullying properly, leaving some parents struggling for a solution.

One Sherrard mother says a recent incident at her son's school got so bad; she’s now taking legal action.

News 8 sat down with that mother who has advice for parents who might be going through a similar struggle.

For 12 year old Bodie, Taekwondo is an escape from reality.

“It gives you a lot of self-confidence,” says Bodie.

Stepping onto a fighting mat didn’t cross his mind until a morning at Sherrard Jr. High changed his life forever. Back in September, Bodie says he was sticking up for his friend who was being bullied at school, when he became the target.

“I passed out about 15 seconds into the flight,” says Bodie.

Bodie’s mom, Tara says he was choked and hit until he was unconscious. She also says the school called an ambulance and Bodie was taken to the hospital.

“The next day he was just so sore from being hit that he could barely move,” remembers Tara.

The fight was all caught on the school’s security camera. News 8 tried to obtain that video through the Freedom of Information Act, but Mercer County Superintendent, Alan Boucher denied our request.

Tara feels there wasn’t adequate punishment for the other boy involved. She wants him expelled.

“There are very specific laws that have to be followed if a child is expelled because all children are entitled to a free and public education,” says Alan Boucher.

Tara pulled Bodie out of school for his safety. He is now home schooled.

“I was the one who had to tell him 'I'm sorry buddy but you cant go back.' That was hard. He was devastated,” remembers Tara.

Since then, Tara has taken her concerns to the Sherrard school district and school board, but feels nothing is being solved.

“They just think I’m going to go away if I keep getting a roadblock here and a road block there or that I’m just going to forget about it and I’m not. He’s my everything,” says Tara.

Now, Bodie is finding ways to move forward through Master Spellious’ Taekwondo class.

“It teaches you never hold back and never stop and think about defending yourself but you never go too far with it,” says Bodie.

For Tara, her fight isn’t over. She’s now turning to the law.

Dennis VanDerGinst with VanDerGinst Law isn’t on this case but says challenging how school's discipline bullies can be difficult because of immunities protecting them.

“The only way you can kind of get around that is if you can show it’s beyond simple negligence on behalf of the school district. In other words, you have to show there is some kind of malicious intent,” says VanDerGinst.

VanDerGinst says there are other options for parents.

“Go after the parents of the child who is doing the bullying. Most states including Illinois and Iowa do have parental responsibility laws that are in place,” says VanDerGinst.

Those laws hold parents accountable for their child’s actions.

VanDerGinst also says parents could hire an attorney to file charges or get a restraining order.

Tara now plans to take Bodie’s story to lawmakers.

“I think we can make change and I think we can change policies. That’s what needs to be done so people can wake up,” says Tara.

She hopes to lobby for better and clearer bullying policies.

“I know this is happening to other people and they are scared for their children. So if I stop, what happens to their kids?” asked Tara.

News 8 reached out to the mom of the other boy involved. She did not want to talk on camera.

Tara told News 8 she tried to get a no contact order against that boy but a lawyer said there has to be at least two fights between the boys before she could do that. Tara and Bodie are now thinking of moving out of Sherrard so Bodie can go back to a public school.