Schools not constitutionally required to stop bullying

Posted August 2013 in Civil Rights by Andrea C. Farney

At the end of the 2013 school year the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision closing the door on using the U.S. Constitution to protect children from school bullying.  In Morrow v. Balaski, the parents of two young girls sought to hold the Blackhawk School District responsible for failing to protect their children from another student.  The bullying included physical assaults and threats.  The parents argued school officials violated their daughters’ liberty interest of the 14th Amendment by failing to protect them from the assaults and threats.  The Court refused to allow the case to move forward, holding that the school didn’t create the danger even though the school knew the girls were victims of a bully.   The Court also decided the case could not move forward because the girls’ parents retained the primary responsibility for their care and protection.  Parents should be aware, however, that even if there is not a constitutional basis for holding schools responsible for bullying, there are federal and state laws prohibiting bullying based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, and disabilityStopbulling.gov is a good site for parents, teachers, and school officials looking for additional resources. 

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