A legal settlement calling on the Department of Education to do more to address bullying in schools was approved this week by a judge, despite objections from advocates.
The settlement was announced in March, but the Legal Aid Society challenged the agreement. Lawyers for the public interest firm argued that the settlement called on the education department to implement reforms that were already required by law or under the city’s own rules, and that the agreement did not address “the underlying causes of bullying, including trauma and mental health issues.”
The city had already moved forward with many of the requirements of the settlement, such as allowing bullying victims to transfer schools and creating an online system to report bullying complaints, after a fatal stabbing at a school in the Bronx in 2017.
Shortly after the stabbing, Chalkbeat reported the city would implement a suite of programs to address bullying:
The $8 million package of programs includes a new online tool for families to reporting bullying incidents, anti-bullying training for students and school staff members, and funding for student-support clubs such as those for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. In addition, the department will begin allowing bullying victims to request school transfers, will require schools to come up with individual plans for dealing with students who bully others, and will provide extra training and support to the 300 schools with the highest bullying rates.
The class action suit was originally filed in April 2016 by a group of 23 families who alleged that the education department was not addressing bullying concerns. The settlement was approved on Monday.
“This settlement finally brings relief to children and parents suffering the dangerous consequences of school bullying, and mandates meaningful reform,” Jim Walden, an attorney representing the parents, said in an emailed statement.
In an email, education department spokesman Miranda Barbot said the city is focused on improving school climate and that every bullying allegation is treated seriously.
“We recognize the impact that bullying can have on the wellbeing of young people, and are committed to fostering school environments that are safe and supportive for all students,” she wrote.
Chalkbeat NY is a nonprofit news organization committed to covering education and schools. www.chalkbeatny.org/ny