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Bullying can introduce significant implications for civil rights violations

Lisa Ford Berry, founder of BRAVE Society, encourages parents to advocate for their children’s civil rights via the ACLU if they are not getting support from the school.
Lisa Ford Berry, founder of BRAVE Society, encourages parents to advocate for their children’s civil rights via the ACLU if they are not getting support from the school.
Joanna Jullien

In a recent Fox report, a Philadephia single mother and her teen son stand united to change the zero tolerance policy at South Fayette High School in McDonald, which charged her son for disorderly conduct after using his iPad to record his tormenters’ relentless harassment in the classroom and brought it to the attention of school.

Rather than address the flagrant peer abuse recorded on the iPad, this report said that the school officials made the teen delete the recording and brought in the police to inquire about prosecuting the teen. Most troubling about this story is that it appears that the teen who attempted to defend himself without using violence, (from a personal attack that lasted three months), was treated like a criminal while his tormentors went without discipline. The mother and son are prepared to file a civil suit.

This story makes one wonder: who is raising the children? Really. When we look the other way at uncivil and hateful conduct in the classroom and at home, minimizing it as a phase, and then execute zero tolerance policies on school campuses that mandate criminal prosecution for conduct that should be corrected as a part of socializing and educating our youth, we are essentially condoning a norm for cruelty that would never be tolerated for adults.

Lisa Ford Berry, founder of BRAVE Society, a Carmichael non-profit dedicated to education and prevention of peer abuse, is not surprised by this story. “I think as long as the adults who are charged with a child’s well-being remain apathetic and indifferent to their suffering then if taping keeps you safe, do it,” she said. “This school did not need to prosecute. And that is where they compounded their mistake which was doing nothing in the first place. If you have listened to the tape the filth those other kids were spewing was completely unacceptable, and with a teacher present.”

Ford Berry encourages parents to advocate for their children’s civil rights via the ACLU if they are not getting support from the school to address a bully situation that cannot be resolved without support from school officials. “In this case, the teen is a special needs kid and is also a protected federal class,” she said. “And so the Department of Justice might also become involved.”

Ford Berry also says she does not believe that monetary damages will affect change. She encourages law suits that demand district policy changes and discipline of education officials who do not comply with their responsibility to all the students.

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