Title

ARE SCHOOLS LIABLE FOR VIOLENCE? SCHOOL SAFETY STARTS AT HOME, SAYS UGA EDUCATION LAW EXPERT

Abstract

Friday, April 23, 1999

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172, pharr@jd.lawsch.uga.edu

CONTACT: Anne Dupre, (706) 542-5294

ARE SCHOOLS LIABLE FOR VIOLENCE? SCHOOL SAFETY STARTS AT HOME, SAYS UGA EDUCATION LAW EXPERT

ATHENS, Ga. -- Who's to blame when heavily-armed, suicidal teens go on a murderous rampage in their school? Should the teachers and schools be held liable? UGA law professor Anne Dupre, a former elementary teacher who now specializes in education law and children's legal issues, says look no further than the home.

"Where are the parents when their children are storing weapons, buying gunpowder and making bombs?" said Dupre. "People expect teachers to identify potential problems and resolve them before other students are put in danger, but in many cases, teachers are afraid to act for fear of being sued for stigmatizing a student or their hands are otherwise tied by the system. And high school teachers simply may not be aware that a particular student is a serious problem. Teachers in high school may see one student for a 50-minute period with 30 other students. After all, students are in school for a total of about six hours a day. The parents are (or should be) with them the rest of the time and do not have 30 other students to observe."

Dupre says schools are too short-staffed and underfunded to shoulder the entire responsibility of instilling good mores.

"I really don't think that we as Americans are ready to have institutions parent our children," said Dupre. "If we do want to give schools that responsibility, then we need to provide them with greater authority and resources to do it. If we think schools need to monitor the websites of all their students (and this would withstand a First Amendment challenge), allocate the money for schools to perform this kind of function. A broader question is whether we want schools to move so far away from their central mission -- educating children."

Dupre has lectured on school discipline at national conferences and has published several articles on the subject, including "Should Students Have Constitutional Rights? Keeping Order in the Public Schools," in the George Washington Law Review. A relevant recent essay, "Violence, Depravity and the Movies: The Lure of Deviancy," was recently published in USA Today magazine.

Dupre joined the University of Georgia School of Law faculty in 1994 and teaches education law, children in the legal system, and contracts. She served as judicial law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court and to Eleventh Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson following her graduation -- first in her class -- from the University of Georgia School of Law.

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