Education News in Brief

Bullying Incidents Raise Questions About Role of School Officials

By The Associated Press — April 06, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

With nine students charged in the bullying of a Massachusetts girl who hanged herself in January, and $50,000 awarded to a New York teenager after his school district failed to stop taunts about his sexual orientation, questions have arisen about how accountable school officials should be for stopping bullying.

Barbara Coloroso, a nationally known anti-bullying consultant, had been contacted by South Hadley, Mass., school officials months before Phoebe Prince’s hanging death, after a young boy in nearby Springfield killed himself. Ms. Coloroso said school officials made mistakes by failing to stop the bullying and, after Ms. Prince hanged herself, by allowing at least some of the students involved to continue to attend classes and a school dance with no visible signs of discipline.

“The questions to ask are: Did they follow their own rules and did they keep Phoebe safe? Obviously not. And did they deal effectively with the bullies? Obviously not,” Ms. Coloroso said last week.

Local law-enforcement officials said Ms. Prince, who had recently emigrated from Ireland, endured months of verbal assaults and threats after she briefly dated a popular boy. She was harassed mostly in school, but also on Facebook.

School officials won’t be charged, even though law-enforcement officials said that they knew about the bullying and that Ms. Prince’s mother brought her concerns to at least two of them.

South Hadley Superintendent Gus Sayer said high school officials disciplined students they heard had insulted and harassed Ms. Prince, but didn’t know the extent of the bullying until a week before Ms. Prince hanged herself on Jan. 14.

Meanwhile, a gay teenager in upstate New York who had claimed he was relentlessly bullied by classmates while school administrators stood by and did nothing settled his lawsuit last week against the school district.

Jacob—who is identified as “J.L.” in the lawsuit—sued the Mohawk Central school district in federal court last summer with help from the New York Civil Liberties Union. Now 15, he said school officials did virtually nothing to stop bullies who picked on him.

The district paid $50,000 to Jacob’s family and agreed to reimburse them for counseling services, but didn’t admit to any wrongdoing under the settlement.

The U.S. Department of Justice had sought to intervene, citing the important issues the case raised in enforcing federal civil rights laws. Its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services is making a publication on reducing bullying in schools available at no cost in support of renewed local efforts across the country to prevent bullying.

A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 2010 edition of Education Week as Bullying Incidents Raise Questions About Role of School Officials


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP