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ACLU files complaint claiming Henderson school lax on bullying intervention

For all the increased awareness of bullying and its consequences, at least one Nevada school has apparently failed to effectively address it.

Greenspun Junior High in Henderson is facing a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada on behalf of two students who were verbally and physically attacked on multiple occasions, based on their perceived sexual orientation. The attacks violate Nevada's law prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation.

ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein says the complaint takes issue with the school administration’s failure to intervene swiftly on behalf of the students’ safety.

“While the parents did go to the officials to get this stopped, they didn’t,” says Lichtenstein. “And ultimately they had to take their children out of school.”

While it may not be possible for teachers and staff to constantly monitor for bullying, Amanda Haboush, a research associate at the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy, says that an effective school bullying policy can help. However, the policy must have buy-in at all levels.

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“I think a true anti-bullying approach needs to occur school-wide. All the teachers need to be on board, and all the staff needs to be on board too, from the secretaries, to the principal, to all the deans,” says Haboush. “The school needs to foster a culture of respect.”

Lichtenstein feels that not only must there be an internal bullying policy that is enforced, but there must be external consequences for the school’s failure to act.  

“If they had some jeopardy for their own action or inaction, we have found their attention level gets heightened,” says Lichtenstein.

The ACLU of Nevada has filed a complaint with Nevada Equal Rights Commission. If NERC fails to act on the complaint, says Lichtenstein, the ACLU will go after the Commission in a separate lawsuit.

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