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December 23, 2011

Should principals be held legally liable for bullying?

A Baltimore city jury ruled Thursday, that they should not.

But that has not stopped the debate about whether the defense that held up in court--the parents of a bullied special needs student didn't document every interaction and complaint to their schools--holds up in public opinion.

A four-day-trial ended Thursday, with a city jury deciding that the principal of Hazelwood Elementary and the former principal of Glenmount Elementary school were not negligent in addressing the chronic bullying of a special needs student, who suffered behavioral issues as a result of a traumatic brain injury.

Edmund and Shawna Sullivan, the parents of the boy, brought a $1.3 million lawsuit against the school system--though every count against the system as a whole was thrown out--that ended up leaving the principals on the line for negligence and gross negligence.

The principals admitted that they were made aware by the Sullivans of several incidents at the schools.The principal of Hazelwood admitted that there may even have been a report of the boy and his sister "being beaten and robbed.

And while jurors believe that bullying took place, they said there wasn't enough evidence that their inaction led to the roughly $35,000 in physical and emotional damage (in addition to the damage you can quantify), because the parents hadn't documented with formal bullying forms and complaints to the school. Jurors also said the Sullivans were lacking consistent recounts of names, dates, and times. 

However, outside of the legal considerations, jurors also said that they took into consideration the fact that their decision could essentially declare open season on school systems and principals across the country.

In our story today, the president of the city's principal union said the season has already begun. 

But, in a district that is built around principal autonomy and accountability, who should be held responsible for the damage that is caused from a school yard rite of passage that, if unaddressed, can land children in mental institutions and educators in turmoil?

If not, who should? 



Posted by Erica Green at 10:12 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City


Twelve Things You Can Do To Stop Bullying

FYI- never ever presume the schools ARE doing their jobs adequately. You must stay involved. Parents ALWAYS need to know what is going on to ensure the schools are doing what they are supposed to do. Kids usually will not report issues to school staff on their own and feel they have no power. If school officials don't notice something is going on, parents must step in. I have heard too many horror stories to believe otherwise.

Schools are under an obligation to take action when they know bullying or targeting is occurring. They may also punish the students involved (see California Education Code sections 48900(r) and 48900.4). However, I get calls weekly from parents whose kids are being targeted while the school ignores a known situation. Often the parents have verbally told the school, but the school has done nothing.

Here are my best suggestions of what to do to get action from the school and stop the bullying

edlaw4students dot com

How did this issue become a question of who should be held responsible for the damage that is caused from...

Quite absurd.

There is no question. Here are the facts as I know them after many years in Baltimore City Schools:

Bullying is alive and well..

Teachers try to help but we are powerless. Administrators do NOT want to know. Honestly, we do our best.

AAA wants to deny it exists.

Parents think their bullying children are angels.LIE! They are bullies and so are their parents.

Teachers are bullied,too, by parents and administrators.

Solutions? I have seen so many programs come and go with no success. Kids with ridiculous behavior need to be separated from the other kids so that teachers and students are safe and can succeed,

Now, watch and see how many people will disagee with me. BUT, do they have better solution?Personlly, I would try anything to work in a peaceful, calm environment .

Bullying is a serious problem affecting millions of children. It can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance. 19,000 children attempt to commit suicide every year as a direct result of being bullied. To help combat this, I have put together a bully prevention show for elementary schools & libraries called "The STOP Bullying Show". Based out of Orlando, Florida, the show raises the awareness of bullying in a fun & engaging way; while teaching kids what they can do to put a stop to it. Highlights of the show can be seen here...



December 26-Baltimore Sun-article on suspensions. Baltimore County has higest suspension rate. Baltimore City has lower rates due to positive incentives and alternatives.

Not true. BCPS has a lower rate because administrators are afraid to susend kids and regardless of behavior, students are sent back to class to continue the offending behavior and disrupt the learning of others. Talk to teachers!

Why are rates of suspension higher for some kids than others? Simple! Students who misbehave are suspended. Period! I have kids. They behave. They have never been suspended. We are not talking about the elephant in the room. We never do!

When bullying goes to court the lessons are clear--parents and administrators need to follow the rules otherwise kids keep getting hurt. This case is a good example. When a parent is aware that his daughter is being bullied he needs to notify the administrator, follow the school board policy about notification and, above all, document. When the school administrator has notice of bullying, either through parental complaint, student complaint or direct observation the administrator must react in a reasonable way to end the bullying and, above all, document. If the documentation in this case was available to the jury they would have had clearer information from which to render a decision. As it is, the school may not have been held accountable for lack of documentation--and the bullying may continue.

Edward F. Dragan, EdD, author, "The Bully Action Guide: How to Help Your Child and Get Your School to Listen"

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