In an outrageous case of assault, and possibly bullying, several students at a New Hampshire high school were arrested for allegedly tattooing an indecent phrase and picture on the buttocks of a 14 year-old freshman without the freshman’s consent. The police explained in the warrant supporting the arrest of the students that the freshman victim, who has a learning disability and self-esteem issues, had been picked on frequently in school because of his disabilities. The perpetrators were charged with, among other things, assault and tattooing without a license. In Connecticut, while this incident would certainly constitute assault, it is unclear from the facts available whether it would constitute bullying, as that term is defined in our statutes.
Connecticut law defines bullying as follows: “any overt acts by a student or a group of students directed against another student with the intent to ridicule, harass, humiliate or intimidate the other student while on school grounds, at a school-sponsored activity or on a school bus, which acts are committed more than once against any student during the school year.” In this case, we would need more information about the assailants and their prior acts to determine if the act of tattooing the freshman would be considered bullying. However, districts should remember that, even though this act may not be considered bullying, discipline may be appropriate in Connecticut if there was a sufficient nexus to the school, the act violated the school’s publicized student discipline policy, and the act caused a serious disruption of the education process. In a case like this, districts should also consider the act as disability based harassment, given that the victim appeared to be targeted for on the basis of his disability.