Lawsuits Related to School Bullying are on the Rise: Will they solve the Problem?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Personal injury lawsuits involving bullying are not typically directed at the alleged bully or their family. Instead, most of the suits are directed at the school districts, school boards, and other administrators. When filing for compensation, often, the argument is this: the school should have known about the bullying and prevented it. In the most extreme cases, children have been bullied to death or resorted to taking their own lives: Lennon Baldwin, Phoebe Prince, Jon Carmichael and Seth Walsh are just a few recent examples. In such cases, it seems reasonable for a parent to want justice for the loss of their child.

In the Carmichael case, for instance, the parents filed a 20 million dollar lawsuit in 2011(”More Bullying Cases Have Parents Turning to Courts”  Such lawsuits, some argue, are detrimental to education: if a school district is using funds to fight the allegations, this may divert money from educational expenses. This seems like an understandable position, but how much potential is being lost each year with students who are bullied and cannot focus on school work, develop psychological problems due to ongoing fear, and, in the most heartbreaking cases, take their own lives? What is the price tag on such losses?

An important way that school districts could avoid such lawsuits is to better protect their students and educate their staff on how to effectively deal with bullying. If schools only focus on mathematics, grammar, science, history and other academic subjects, our schools will continue to be havens of bullying. To reduce the empathy gap that tolerates bullying, lawsuits may be the most reasonable step forward until schools can protect all of their students.  


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