Schools Have a Responsibility to Proactively Stop Bullying


A federal jury recently ordered the Hudson Area School District (Michigan) to pay $800,000 in damages to a student who endured years of emotional, physical, and sexual bullying.  Dane Patterson was in middle school when the bullying began as simple name calling and verbal harassment.  It escalated in high school and included being pushed into lockers and at least one incident in 10th grade where he was sexually harassed – which involved “a naked student rubbing against him” in a locker room.

Most states require their schools to have an anti-bullying policy, and Hudson Schools did.  On some occasions when bullying was reported to the school and the perpetrators could be identified, they were punished.  In other cases teachers who witnessed bullying or who were made aware of it failed to follow through with involving school administration.  And according to court records, in one case a geography teacher actually contributed to the problem by making fun of Patterson in front of the entire class by saying: “How does it feel to be hit by a girl?” after he was slapped by a female student when he attempted to stop her from bullying a classmate.  This is almost unbelievable.

This case is a clear message to schools that inaction, or even a simple unwise reaction, is not enough when it comes to dealing with bullies.  Districts need to be proactive in preventing bullying from getting out of control.  It is one thing to have a policy in place prohibiting bullying.  It is so much important for schools to actively enforce it and take additional steps to foster a positive climate in which bullying of all kinds is not tolerated (by staff or students).  Staff need to educate students about appropriate behaviors and take action (informal or formal) against bullies.  Adults who argue that bullying is a normal part of growing up (“kids will be kids”) are contributing to the problem. Students, too, have a role when they see bullying occurring.  Standing by and watching it occur without doing anything is also contributing to a culture where bullying is considered normative behavior and therefore passively condoned and tolerated.  If you are a student and see someone being bullied, please tell an adult in the school that you trust will take appropriate actions (without making things worse for you or the target).  Together, students and staff can work together to create and maintain a positive learning environment free from harassment and abuse.


  1. this is a really great plot. its really sad how teenagers would escalate this high to try and ruin a kids life. so sad what a terrible place to be in.

  2. Wow, Justice has finally been served in one single case. Hope this sends a loud and clear message to all school districts. Schools who have a bullying policy "on paper only" need to realize they will some day be held accountable for their lack of enforcement of the policy.The years of psychological counseling that may be needed by this child to overcome the emotional damage is not mitigated by the payment. The student deserves every penny of his award.Kudos to the jury that ordered the payment.

  3. I agree with the court ruling in regards to one aspect systematic and only verbal punshment to bulling students One item not mentioned bullying has always happened in schools and todays students are more immature and highly protected by laws and school policy than ever before. Yet we have more dramatic bullying due to technology and students later identification of who they are. Courts rule the way justices view the letter of the law all have varying opinions. The final part of the article was school must identify and try to stop. This is a generalization not easily done. Parents need to parent and stop blaming the school for all ills.

  4. As a teacher I can only do my best to keep kids from bullying other kids. I spend half of my time in a classroom reprimanding students for being rude or mean to others. The other half I might get to spend teaching. The school can only do so much. The school system was not created to parent people's children but instead to teach them. If the parent's of the children do not care how their kids behave, I can only do so much. Our schools are quickly becoming unruly. When a teacher calls a parent and the parent lashes out at the school for disciplining their child our hands become tied. Bullying is a huge problem and more so now with the use of cyberbullying. Your schools systems can do nothing about the amount of time kids are on social networking systems these days. Perhaps the jury should have ordered the parents of those teens to pay thaty huge amount of money.

  5. Need some help!! We've had three students that go to school with my daughter that did some cyberbullying to another student in a different school district. I contacted the school about this, they said that their history on their computer had been deleated. Not sure what to do about this issue.

  6. Thousands of kids get bullied very day for what they look like, what they wear, what they do, and other stupid things. My idea is to start a club with a bunch of kids who have been bullied before. They would be able to share their stories, thoughts, and feelings.

    • I think that more students should take up leadership opportunities at school and do what you’ve envisioned. It’s all about changing the climate there, and setting standards, and then getting everyone on board. Let us know how it goes, Gavin.

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