New Jersey School Harassment Attorneys
Racial, ethnic and national intolerance has, sadly, been increasing, not decreasing, in this contentious age of "us" and "them," of a desire to protect and insulate culture, of a need to push culture instead of enjoy and celebrate it. To many, cultural diversity is not a good thing, but something to be feared and rebelled against. And those modern day "Archie Bunkers" pass on those prejudices and fears to their children.
And the children take it out on others not like them.
When we say 'race,' we of course intend something far more broad; a soup, if you will, of ethnicity, national origin, even religious belief. In the age of terrorism, ignorance borne of misguided family values, in combination with stereotyping and generalization, produce a sense that anyone who is not Caucasian is an enemy, whether economic, religious, political or otherwise.
Kids from India who come from families thrilled to be American citizens are beat up because they're 'Arab terrorists.' Peaceful Muslims are accused of carrying bombs in backpacks. Jewish students killed Christ, Asian students are taking jobs, and the prejudices and fears go on and on.
In person bullying can lead to cyber bullying and 'wolf pack' tactics as other kids, afraid to be associated with the victim, pile on literally and otherwise. Witnesses turn a blind eye so as not to be 'rats.'
And all too often, school and district officials either fail to prevent the conduct through proper training, discipline and policy, or even worse, betray the trust to which students and their families are entitled by ignoring the harassment or sweeping it under the rug. Worse, some officials blame the victim, as if by removing the victim, they need not deal with the numerical problem of dealing with a group of kids.
School board and school district officials have an affirmative duty under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to specifically prohibit and prevent racial and ethnic harassment in schools of whatever kind or nature. They must develop and promulgate assemblies, school behavioral manuals and other in-class and out of class activities and events to create a "zero tolerance" culture when it comes to this type of conduct, because the cost of failing to deter it is so very high. They also have affirmative duties to respond to complaints when complaints are brought to the attention of school officials, school or district officials, either directly or through guidance counselors, teachers and other in-school professionals. When schools don't respond, and when schools don't prevent, they are liable for the consequences.
The cost of failing to prevent this harassment and, even worse, of betraying the students who complains either alone or through his or her family, is depression, social ostracizing, psychological problems, drug use and self-destructive behavior. Suicide is not unknown to middle school students and is on the rise. Child victims don't often even understand how to express the pain that they feel when they are subjected to this conduct and experience a tremendous conflict between wishing to report what they are experiencing on the one hand, and wishing to "stay strong" on the other, which really means suffering silently. If they're not taken seriously when they have the courage and their convictions to complain, and if the parents are not taken seriously when they advocate for their children, then something is desperately wrong.
As a student suffers, the school is responsible in both compensatory and, if the school has ignored complaints, in punitive damages. The school must also pay the attorneys' fees of successful litigants to the extent that cases are proven.
School districts, school boards and school officials all have the same duties as employers have to prevent racial and ethnic harassment in their school, just as employers have that duty to prevent it in the workplace.
Costello & Mains is at the forefront of the effort to use the law to prevent, deter and punish racial and ethnic harassment in the schools. We are the leading firm in New Jersey doing this work.
If you feel your child at any level of the educational system including elementary school all the way up to and including higher education, has suffered in-school harassment of any kind, you might have recourse under New Jersey law. Contact Costello & Mains at 856-727-9700 to speak to one of our attorneys about your matter.