Harassment lawsuits may push government out of education business

Due to lawsuits, it may become financially impossible for the government to stay in the education business. A recent Supreme Court ruling stated that government schools can be held liable for damages if officials ignore complaints about student-on-student sexual harassment. These lawsuits are in addition to the common lawsuits that result when government schools violate the constitutional rights of a student.In the Supreme Court decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor emphasized that school districts should be held responsible only for misconduct that is so “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that it makes it impossible for students to get a government education. “It is not enough to show . . . that a student has been ‘teased’ or ‘called offensive names,’‚” she wrote.

This week, a high school student in Kansas City, Kansas filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her school for not responding to her complaints about a sexual attack. According to the student, during an outdoor physical education class Jan. 12, two students dragged her into a closet near the stadium bleachers, fondled her and tried to remove her clothes.

A fellow student heard her screams and stopped the attack by opening the door. The student immediately reported the attack to her teacher but was not allowed to go to the school office to report the attack. Like many students and parents, who are ignored by government school officials, the student’s parents then reported the attack to the police and complained to school officials.

School officials offered to transfer the student or let her take night classes. She chose to stay at school until one of her assailants, who was allowed to return to school, started to harass her again. She then left school and began a home study program.

She is now suing her school for $75,000 and she may win due to the recent Supreme Court ruling. Her lawsuit alone may encourage other students to sue and lead to a series of lawsuits that could bankrupt her school.

The state of Kansas could then send more funds but eventually the state may cut its loses, decide to get out of the education business, and embrace school vouchers. Since states are required to provide an education to state residents, vouchers will allow the state to honor its federal requirement to provide an education but not expose it to the financial liability of lawsuits.

Vouchers may not seem like a great idea if you live in a town with only one private school that is known to be very strict. However, vouchers will invite many new schools to your town and these schools will compete for your vouchers. Those schools that respect students and allow them to be individuals will be the most successful.

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