From “Rules & Punishment” to Active Engagement

New Book by Nan Willard Offers a Strong, Legal Case for a Positive Approach to the Bullying Problem

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Eugene, Oregon (PRWEB) April 04, 2014

Positive Relations @ School (& Elsewhere): Legal Ramifications & Positive Strategies to Address Bullying & Harassment, a just released book by Nancy Willard, M.S, J.D., provides insight into the legal repercussions of bullying and harassment and presents a 21st Century approach to address this age-old, yet pervasive, problem.

“Although most schools are working hard to address bullying, their efforts simply aren’t working to reduce the incidence of bullying, “ says Willard. “In a U.S. Department of Justice survey, in 2011, close to 1.2 million students reported that someone was hurtful to them at school once a week or more -- a rate that has not significantly declined since 2005. Of this number, more than 540,000 students say this happens “almost daily.” Further, more than 700,000 students reported they were “fearful of attack or harm” at school “sometimes” or “most of the time.”

Current Bullying Prevention Approaches of “Rules and Punishment” Doesn’t Work

The bullying prevention approach currently required by most state statutes focuses on establishing rules against bullying, telling students to report, and having adults step in to resolve the problem, usually by punishing the hurtful student. “But the majority of students do not tell an adult if someone is hurtful to them at school or online because they think school staff will make things worse,” says Willard. “Unfortunately, the research backs up students’ perceptions.”

Positive Relations @ School (& Elsewhere) fully outlines the research evidence that documents the challenges.

Legal Risks on the Rise

Compounding the problem, the risks of school liability for failing to effectively address peer harassment have significantly increased. In 2012, the Second Circuit upheld a $1M verdict against a New York school by a student who had endured over three years of racial harassment--even though the school was doing everything required in most anti-bullying statutes [Zeno v. Pine Plains Central School District, 702 F3d 655 (2d Cir. 2012)]. The Court noted that the principal should have figured out that the punitive interventions were not working and the school failed to correct the “culture of bias” fueling the harassment.

Positive Relations @ School (& Elsewhere) discusses an array of legal issues related to bullying, including:

  • discriminatory harassment
  • bullying of and by students with disabilities
  • school discipline concerns
  • free speech issues associated with disparaging and off-campus student speech
  • statutory and policy concerns.

A Comprehensive, Positive Approach

Positive Relations @ School (& Elsewhere) outlines a comprehensive, positive action plan for schools that is grounded in insight from recent litigation, U.S. Department of Education guidance, current research and thinking. Highlights of the action plan outlined by Willard include:

  • dedicated staffing & coordinated planning
  • local measurement & a focus on effectiveness
  • focus on positive school climate, positive management of student behavior, and students' social, emotional, and cultural competencies
  • student involvement in leadership roles
  • specific attention to typically targeted students
  • restorative interventions that effectively address students' challenges

About the Author

Author, Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D. has degrees in special education and law. She taught emotionally disturbed students and has worked in computer law and educational technology planning. With the emergence of a socially-connected world online, Nancy focused her combined expertise in the areas of youth risk behavior, technology, and law to provide a research-based, constructive perspective on the issues related to bullying prevention. Nancy advocates for positive school climate, engaging students as full participants, and resolving negative incidents in a positive and restorative manner.

Nancy is available for interviews and appearances about Positive Relations @ School (& Elsewhere) or for any stories on bullying or cyberbullying that reporters might be covering. A press kit with Nancy’s bio, photo, and the book cover is at: