ShapTalk: Guest Commentary
By Michael M. Shapiro
This past February, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that school systems are responsible for stopping bias-based harassment and found in favor of a former student who had been incessantly harassed because of his sexual preference while attending the Toms River Regional School District. A school district may now be held liable if it is notified of a “hostile educational environment” and does not take reasonable action to eradicate it.
While New Jersey has one of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the Country, enforcement of the law is weak, particularly in public schools. The New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent decision should be viewed as a catalyst for change in its public schools. To avoid adverse court decisions and to create an educational environment free of bias-based harassment, schools should take an additional step: Every school district in the state should be required to provide mandatory sensitivity training to all students, faculty and staff.