When a child in Illinois is discriminated against, made fun of or harmed due to their religion or beliefs, they may be considered the victim of bullying behavior. For example, according to Fox News, a teacher attempted to make a six-year-old child stand up in class and say the Pledge of Allegiance against his will. When he refused the teacher’s orders, he was sent outside to wait during the duration of the pledge to avoid disrupting other students who wondered why they were required to stand up and recite the pledge.

Due to this situation, the boy’s father retaliated and said that the school violated his child’s First Amendment rights and harmed the boy’s ability to develop his free thinking skills, both of which he believes constitute as bullying. As a result, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the school’s superintendent stating that giving children the choice to sit out during the Pledge of Allegiance is a matter of free speech.

Illinois bullying statutes

According to the Illinois School Code, any person who causes a child to be absent from school unlawfully is considered guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. Although the teacher who made the boy go outside while the other students did not necessarily cause him to leave school boundaries, his absence from the classroom could make the child a victim of school bullying and the teacher guilty for doing so.

Who is at risk for belief-based bullying?

This situation also put the boy at risk for becoming the victim of religious bullying. In these situations, those who are bullied are usually picked on not because of their beliefs, but because of misinformation or misunderstanding surrounding them.

For example, a Jewish boy who wears a yarmulke or a Muslim girl who wears a hijab at school may become victimized by bullies because these are visual signs of their religion that other children do not understand. When the teacher in this situation forced the child to go outside, other children in the classroom were then given a reason to wonder why he was receiving different treatment, potentially making him a target for mistreatment from others.

Regardless of whether a child is bullied for their beliefs, race, gender or appearance, children who are put in these types of harmful situations often suffer from depression and anxiety, health complaints and decreased academic performance. Parents who are concerned about the effect bullying is having on their child may benefit from speaking with an attorney who can provide guidance regarding which legal steps should be taken.