A recently released guide on bullying can help educators find the middle ground between students’ Constitutional rights and their right to learn in a safe environment, writes Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., of the National School Boards Association. The guide is a tool teachers can use to help students understand the difference between bullying or harassment and expressing a viewpoint, to teach the importance of civic discourse and thoughtful discussion and to instill in students respect for the rights of others, Negrón writes.
The one common thread from the many perspectives on school bullying is that advocates on all sides care deeply about kids. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is determined to protect students’ Constitutional rights and their rights to an education in a safe school environment. But those rights hold an inherent tension that at times collides.
So how can we find a middle ground?
We’re encouraged by a new set of guidelines that show ways public school students can safely share their views and engage in discussions about religious and political differences in environments that prohibit discrimination, bullying, and harassment.
NSBA recently worked with 16 other education, civil rights, and legal advocacy groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Education Project/First Amendment Center, to create this guidance for schools.
“Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools,” is based on current laws but is not a legal document. Instead it is a policy guide rooted in the best interests of students. And because of that it can accomplish goals that many court rulings and policies from the federal Department of Education have struggled to reach.