Updated 12:43 p.m. ET
A Hartford woman is facing charges for allegedly sending her 12-year-old son to school with a BB gun and a folding knife so he could protect himself from bullies.
Police say 38-year-old Sylvia Mojica has been charged with risk of injury to a minor. She is expected to appear in court on Friday.
Mojica allegedly gave her son the BB pistol and the folding knife to bring to school on Friday. The boy told school officials that he had the items in his backpack.
Administrators say the boy now faces a suspension or even expulsion. They are also investigating the bullying allegations.
It was not immediately clear if Mojica had a lawyer.
The charges come t he same day that the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelinesthat tolerating harassment could put them in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.
That move follows several high-profile cases of bullying in recent months. Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, said the department was responding to what it senses as a growing problem within schools.
She said the Office for Civil Rights had received 800 complaints alleging harassment over the last fiscal year, and that reports from the field indicate an increase of harassment against certain groups - including gays and lesbians, as well as Muslim students after the 9/11 attacks.
According to a USA Today survey released today, nearly half of American high school students ages 15-18 (47%) report being bullied or teased at least once during the last year - and 50% also say they have bullied, teased or taunted others.
According to the Clemson University Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, one in six students admits to being bullied 2-3 or more every month.
In January, a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl, Phoebe Prince (left), took her own life after being relentlessly bullied by her classmates, prosecutors said. Six teenagers have been charged. One, a 19-year-old charged with statutory rape, is expected in court Tuesday for a hearing.
A Minnesota school district unanimously passed changes to its anti-bullying and harassment policies to clearly list protected classes (including race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, age, poverty and sexual orientation), three months after 15-year-old Justin Aaberg, of Andover, Minn., hanged himself in his room. His friends told his mother he had been a frequent victim of anti-gay bullying.
Asher Brown of Cypress, Tex., and Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif., both 13, and 15-year Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Ind., who each committed suicide during the past few months, were said to be targets of anti-gay bullying.
In September, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate secretly webcast his dorm-room tryst with a man, police said. The roommate and another student have been charged with invasion of privacy, and authorities are considering whether to add a hate-crime charge.
For more info:
Effects of Student-on-Student Harassment (Fact Sheet)
Office for Civil Rights (DOE)
Olweus Bullying Prevention ProgramClemson University Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life
YouTube "It Gets Better" Project