I would like to think that I had a sheltered K-12 experience. Thanks to my parents and their generosity, I had the privilege of going to one of the best private college prep schools in Hawaii. I received a great education in a top-notch environment, and because of this, bullying didn’t play a critical role in my ability to learn or grow. This is not to say that I was not aware of school violence and bullying as a cultural phenomenon, though. I simply was not accustomed to it. Constant bullying, however, is the reality for many students of all ages.
According to BuzzFeed, a New York City mother was called by her 8-year-old son’s school when he stabbed himself in the ear with a pencil. When she came to pick him up, he confessed that he just wanted his bully to stop insulting him. The New York City public school district is required by law to protect the children it serves from bullying by explicitly investigating acts of violence. The troubled mother said the school district failed to do so in the case of her special-needs son.
The broken education system seems to ignore issues that are linked to bullying and in-school violence such as subpar test scores, low retention rates and worsening mental health. If officials confront the issue head-on, other problems may be solved. This is what many parents and children, like the mom and her 8-year old son, hope to achieve by suing the New York City public school district.
A class-action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education alleges the presence of an ingrained and ignored problem with violence and bullying in New York City public schools. The nation’s largest school district is under fire for failing to follow its policies in dealing with a systemic problem of violence against children. Parents accuse the district of disregarding issues between students and abuse on behalf of teachers and other staff members. The suit was filed Wednesday in the Eastern District Court of New York. This is the first lawsuit of its kind, which makes it the perfect candidate for scoring precedent.
The suit specifically states that New York City students are blocked from their right to a decent public education because of the “ineffective and inadequate” response to violence within the schools. The students targeted are also mostly black and Latino, which means the city is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Despite all the bad press, officials within the Department of Education have maintained their positions to uphold the district’s quality of education. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, major crimes in schools are down nearly 15 percent and other crimes are down by nearly seven percent. Even though this may be true, it’s hard to refute the race issue. Black and Hispanic children are six times more likely to be the victim of a violent incident. And on a different note, children of color often end up attending subpar schools, according to BuzzFeed.
The lawsuit provides 10 stories of New York City public school children who have been violently bullied by other students and teachers with no intervention on behalf of the officials. These stories are horrific and illustrate the horrors of being a victim of an inner-city public school.
This crisis must be solved, and hopefully this suit will do some good. It has started an important conversation that must continue. Moral of the story? Be kind to one another.