U.S. Judge Says School Can Punish “Peripheral” Participants Of Bullying

A school bully isn’t just the person who knocks the victim down but can also include members of the cheering crowd.

That was the conclusion of U.S District Judge William G. Young of Massachusetts, who recently upheld disciplinary action against two students at Hopkinton Public High School, Hopkinton, MA, who were tangentially involved in a campaign of bullying of another student.

Judge Young ruled “school officials have broad discretion to protect students from bullying, and if in the course of their investigations they sometimes draw in students at the periphery of the group, that does not mean they have violated those student’s constitutional rights.”

The case involved a vicious bullying campaign directed against a 15-year-old ninth-grade student on the school’s hockey team by other team members. 

Two students, identified as John Doe and Ben Bloggs, were on the sidelines of the bullying, participating but not as actively as the core group. They were among eight students suspended from the team after being found guilty of violating the school’s antibullying policy. Bloggs lost his position in the National Honor Society due to his disciplinary record.

Doe and Bloggs’ parents filed suit, claiming, among other things, that Doe and Bloggs’ right to free speech and assembly was violated.

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