When bullying gets out of control - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

When bullying gets out of control

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(CBS 8) - In the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, questions are being raised about how to know when a situation goes from good-hearted teasing to bullying, and how teachers, parents, coaches and anyone in a position of authority should react if someone comes to them with a bullying accusation.

Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin were often side by side on the field. Now they're both off the Miami Dolphins and Incognito is at the center of an NFL-wide probe into bullying.

Attorney Kate Martin with Higgs, Fletcher and Mack of San Diego says the bullying in this case appears to have crossed the line by even NFL locker room standards. The 30-year-old Igcognito reportedly messaged Martin with racial slurs and death threats. Martin left the team last week after a lunch room bullying incident.

"It's not just that someone hurt my feelings or someone did something that was offensive to me, it's a level of conduct that threatens someone's ability to feel safe," Martin said.

The 300-pound linemen were paid to open up running lanes on the field, but now Incognito may have opened up a legal battle for his ex-team and teammate.

"If he's been put in an environment where he's unable to perform his job function, or if he needs psychological counseling, there are the types of injuries that juries can be asked to compensate for," Martin said.

The league is investigating how often Martin reported the behavior to his coaches, along with other critical pieces of evidence that will be a key part of any lawsuit.

"If you investigate all of the allegations to the fullest extent possible and get to the bottom of whatever the allegations are to the extent you can, that can really go a long way in insulating against liability," Martin said.

Kate Martin says this could be a watershed moment that can showcase how even the big guys can be bullied.

"We have seen it a lot in the school districts in terms of how school districts are responding to complaints, and I think the more attention we can give to this idea, the better we'll be able to implement procedures to make it so it doesn't happen," she said.

The NFL has copies of at least one voice mail left by Incognito that includes threats against not only Jonathan Martin, but against his mother too.

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