Howard County Public Schools west of Baltimore is learning the price of student bullying.
According to a report in the Howard Country Times, the school districts is fighting a $10 million lawsuit brought by the parents of a student who was allegedly bullied, and school administrators are accused of ignoring the harassment that lead to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Surely boards of education around the nation will be awaiting the ruling from the U.S. District Court in Baltimore trying the case, seeing as the entire Howard County Board of Education is named in the lawsuit. So, too, is the ex-principal of the school, an assistant principal and a teacher.
But pupil transporters should also take notice.Certainly schools that fail to take action when notified of bullying incidents could find themselves in some very hot water, but recent cases also show that even when schools apparently do take steps to curb the behavior they are still on the hook. The National School Boards Association wrote in its Legal Clips online newsletter that a Cleveland high school is being sued by the families of two studetns who committed suicide after repeatedly being bullied at school and despite the fact that the school had adopted an internationally-recognized bullying program.
We know, however, that bullying also occurs on the school bus just as much as it does on the school playground. Just days after NAPT announced that Florida parent James Jones, who came to notoriety earlier this month after boarding his daughter's school bus to confront bullies, would be a panelist on a bullying presentation at the NAPT Summit in Portland, another parent is accused of a similar transgression.
Unfortunately, as long as kids will be kids there will be bullying. But the policies enacted by schools to combat this harmful, hateful behavior are becoming more important than ever in keeping these incidents to a minimum. So, too, school transportation departments must remain part of the solution.
While the impetus continues to fall on the shoulders of school administrators to ensure that support services such as transportation receive the support and resources they need to report bullying and to see to it that all reports of bullying are immediately addressed, pupil transporters must continue to keep their eyes and ears open on board buses and around them at school and neighborhood loading zones.
Failure to do so could prove extremely expensive. And in this economy especially, now is not the time to bleed out in court.