When Words Become Weapons

As cases of harassment and bullying grab national headlines, Pace hosts an event for all members of the community addressing different aspects of this issue.

As incidents such as those involving Phoebe Prince and Ryan Halligan—children who committed suicide as a result of bullying—become increasingly common, educators and lawmakers are beginning to examine new ways of approaching bullying in the classroom and online. On July 12, the School of Education and Pace Law School team up to address this critical topic that affects both the classroom and the community. Educators, attorneys, counselors, parents, and students are invited to attend this unique event where researchers in the field share their findings and offer strategies for fostering a more inclusive environment and preventing bullying.

“We’ve been promoting this event to not only educators and school administrators, but also to parents, school psychologists, social workers, and community based organizations—particularly ones with after-school programs,” says Merrill Lee Fuchs, program administrator for the School of Education, “We invited people who we thought would have an interest in the topic; people who have an interest in children—people who are dealing with this on a daily basis.”

The Summer Institute, the first official collaboration between the two schools, seeks to examine bullying from a range of perspectives: pedagogically, legally, psychologically, and emotionally. Several scheduled sessions will deal with protecting LGBTQA and special needs students from bullies, cyberbullying, reduction of stigma in schools, the creation of empowering environments for students, victim advocacy, and effective techniques for the cessation and prevention of bullying.

Emily Waldman, an associate professor of law at Pace and Chair of the Education Law Section of the American Association of Law Schools, will address the difficult balance between protecting students’ rights to free speech and the liabilities schools face if they choose not to intervene. “On the one hand you want to protect the student victim—in some cases, depending on how egregious the speech is, schools are legally obligated to take action to stop the speech—but on the other hand, you can’t violate the First Amendment rights of the student speaker,” says Waldman. “It’s a delicate course that they [schools] have to chart between the First Amendment rights of the student speaker and the need to protect the student victim.”

Other keynote speakers include Frank Laghezza, special counsel to schools and executive assistant district attorney in the Crime Prevention Division of the Kings County Office of the District Attorney in New York City; and Bureau Chief of School Advocacy in the Kings County Office of the District Attorney (and former special education teacher) Renee Turner Gregory, who will be addressing recently passed New York State anti-bullying legislation.

If you’d like to attend the institute of want to know more about the presenters scheduled please click here or contact Susan Dunn at sdunn@pace.edu or (914) 773-3746.