The tragic suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer from Williamsville, New York brought to light the anti-bullying efforts schools have made and what can be done to improve the situation.
Jamey killed himself after enduring bullying because he was gay. And his story made national headlines because he laid out his frustrations in a web video before his death. A recent study by the University of California at Los Angeles found that anti-bullying rules often discriminate against minorities and disabled students.
For the most part, New York education law tries to get it right. But the school system and the law makes mistakes and students face discrimination as a result.
Policies school boards think will fix a certain problem can end up creating another, unrelated problem. Needy and disabled students often end up getting the short end of the stick when all students aren’t considered after administrators create rules or impose punishment.
According to the UCLA study, anti-bullying policies became fairly widespread following the 2003 “No Child Left Behind” legislation that made vast changes to schools across the country. President Barack Obama has also called for school administrators not to tolerate bullying.
Under “zero-tolerance” policies that have been enacted, bullies can usually be suspended or expelled for school in an effort to make education safer and more accessible to children.
But “problem children” may end up hurting under policies designed to punish kids who are willfully picking on other children at school. The UCLA Civil Rights Project says that minority students and those suffering from disabilities end up getting unjustly punished because of policies designed for bullies. When they miss school, they end up suffering academically.
The U.S. Department of Education wants to survey children to find out if they view their school as safe. It also warned schools that they could face federal penalties if they can’t control bullying.
In Maryland and Connecticut, zero-tolerance policies result in having to take behavioral classes or remaining in class if they violate rules but don’t pose a threat to other students. Texas, however, ends up suspending or expelling 31 percent of its students, a number that some think leads to children dropping out of school.
All students — regardless of race or physical ability — have the right to get a good education. And it’s not only a right, but a necessity. A person simply cannot survive and have a strong future if they aren’t educated.
And schools have an obligation to provide that education. School administrators must look at students in terms of an individual and not as a statistic or falling under a blanket rule. They must take into consideration that kicking a student out of school hampers their future and prevents them from realizing their dreams.
That’s why students are parents require legal representation that can be essential in making changes to school policy and ensuring that students and future students are treated fairly. No one wants their child to endure bullying and it should be stopped. But what also should be stopped is impeding on learning.
In most cases, even bullies deserve second chances. Throwing a child out of school, and perhaps permanently damaging their future, is no answer.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides education law legal counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.
More Blog Entries:
Schools Districts, Parents, State Often Benefit from Education Law Attorneys in New York: August 17, 2011
Anti-bullying rules hurt disadvantaged students, study says, by Tom Ramstack, All Headline News