A class-action lawsuit regarding bullying in New York City public schools has recently been brought against the New York City Department of Education. The lawsuit alleges that there is an atmosphere of violence and harassment in these schools that deprives students of their right to safely receive an education. The suit was filed in New York’s Eastern District and names both the DOE and its chancellor, Carmen Farina.
Specifically, the suit claims that violence in schools is common and often not dealt with. Also, the lawsuit alleges that violence has been increasing in recent years and that people of color and LGBT people are targeted disproportionately. Eleven public school families filed the suit, and were joined by a group called Families for Excellent Schools, which is a pro-charter school advocacy organization. This group has been a vocal long-time critic of New York City’s public schools.
The leader of Families for Excellent Schools, Jeremiah Kittredge, attended a news conference at the Department of Education’s headquarters in Manhattan to convince more parents to join the class-action lawsuit. He continued to claim that violence and related incidents in schools were widespread and increasing, a view with which New York City mayor Bill de Blasio strongly disagrees.
According to de Blasio, major crime (such as assault causing serious injury) is down over 14 percent this year, while other crimes are down over 6 percent. These statistics, however, only reflect incidents reported to the NYPD. It is important to note that one of the allegations of the class action lawsuit is that such incidents are often not reported by school employees.
As civil rights violations depend on the affected individuals being a part of a protected class, the lawsuit will have to show that bullying had been specifically targeted at people of color or members of the LGBT community.
Do you believe bullying is an inevitable rite of passage, or do you think it could rise to the level of a civil rights violation?