How Lawyers Can Help Prevent Bullying
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and lawyers around the country can play a significant role in reducing the harassment, humiliation and threats that victims face, especially in schools.
“Attorneys can help address the problem of bullying by focusing on the development of comprehensive and constitutionally compliant policies on bullying, harassment and electronic communication,” said James Hanks, author of a new book on school bullying published by the American Bar Association. “Attorneys can ensure that investigations are thorough and consistent with due process, and work with school districts and parents to emphasize problem-solving as opposed to punishment.”
Hanks’ book, School Bullying: How Long Is the Arm of the Law?, reviews anti-bullying measures passed by state legislatures and examines the fate of school district policies that have been challenged in court. It also explores the constitutional issues that arise from applying anti-bullying regulations, examines federal guidelines on harassment, and offers suggestions for a systematic approach to dealing with bullying.
“State statutes give school districts the ability to regulate student conduct, and attorneys can use that authority to develop effective policies within the limits of the law,” Hanks added. “Fairness and a respect for the rights of others are principles deeply embedded in the practice of law, and those principles can guide a search for the truth as well as resolutions that lawyers can foster by their counsel.”
Hanks is a shareholder with Ahlers & Cooney PC, in Des Moines, Iowa, who advises school districts, community colleges and area education agencies. He is the editor and a contributing author of School Violence: From Discipline to Due Process, a publication of the American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law.