Back to School: What the Law Says (and Doesn’t Say) About Bullying in 2018, Part 1
January marked the end of the holiday season and our children have returned for the next semester. Is your family prepared for the challenges, and I am not just referring to matters like school activities or your child’s grades, but the many emotional and psychological challenges and uncertainties students face in today’s educational environment: bullying, sexting, drug use, technology inequality, and learning disparities—just to name a few.
These issues have made the lives of our students and their families—and by extension, the field of education law—more complex than ever before. From time to time here on the Offit Kurman blog, I will explore these issues one by one and offer my perspective as an education law attorney.
Let’s start with a perplexing one:
Bullying, Then and Now
Unfortunate as it is, bullying appears to be an inevitable fact of going to school. It happened to nearly all of us growing up, it happens to our children now, and barring complete social and institutional upheaval, it will most likely continue to happen for generations to come. Unlike generations previous, however, today’s schools are beginning to recognize bullying as a serious issue, and are taking steps to preempt it and mitigate its impact. Only by changing the culture to no longer tolerate bullying and demeaning behavior, will we be successful long term.
Numerous school systems in Virginia, for instance, have adopted anti-bullying policies. Nonetheless, discovery and enforcement remain problematic. What is the best action to take when a student is caught assaulting, verbally abusing, threatening, or intimidating another? The answer depends on the particulars of each case, of course, but teachers, parents, and administrators must find solutions that address the severity of the bully’s behavior without necessarily criminalizing it.
Striking the appropriate balance is not always easy. Keep in mind that these students—those who bully and those who get bullied—are minors. They may be young children. They are still developing physically, cognitively, and emotionally, and should rarely, if ever, be prosecuted as adults who committed the same kinds of offenses would be. Research conducted by the Justice Policy Institute and others has shown that forms of punishment, such as incarceration in a youth detention center, that mirrors criminal justice for adults harms young people’s education and employment prospects, and may actually lead to future criminal behavior. The increasing trends of police involvement in schools and inclusion of disciplinary actions on permanent records should concern all parents and anyone with a stake in our communities. Society is best served by a mental health-social services response to truly assist growing children. Compassionate, not punitive.
Part II of this article will focus on the impact of cyberbullying and what can be done to stop it.
If your child has experienced bullying, need an Educational Law Attorney or need other legal representation, please contact me at email@example.com or 703.745.1812
ABOUT STEVEN STONE
Mr. Stone represents clients before all state courts in Virginia, before government agencies, and before local governments, school boards, and departments. His clients include area education associations, businesses and other trade and professional organizations; Families and individuals. He also has provided legislative and lobbying services on behalf of a wide variety of groups – labor, business, attorneys and doctors. He takes pride in the fact that most of his cases are quietly resolved in the best interest of his clients. His philosophy is that every reasonable effort should be made to settle legal claims or disputes in a way that protects his clients’ rights, and that costly litigation and adversarial proceedings should always be the last resort.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
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