Todd Lamb: Why Johnny Shouldn’t Sue

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By Todd D. Lamb

Education is an interesting public policy because –- unlike defense or immigration -- it is the one form of public policy that almost all Americans have some personal experience with. Most Americans have attended elementary or secondary schools. We all pay the taxes that allow for public education’s existence and - in my case – have children in a public school. Not only is it a universal policy, but it is one that hits close to home almost universally.

We spend billions of dollars on education in this country, and if you study American test results against those of other industrialized nations – you begin to understand why so many are discussing ways in which we might reform the way we teach our students.

Accordingly, over the years, we have seen the school choice movement grow (charters, vouchers and home schooling). In the last year, 44 states have agreed to adopt a “Common Core” of standards which will heighten and align the standards of most states across the country. After the Presidential election, Congress will likely reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Funding education is always at the heart of most education discussions. One topic deserving of discussion is the proper liability role our education systems should operate under. In New Jersey, recent legislation allows families of students victimized by bullies to sue its school district for damages.

Bullying is real issue in American schools, and a highly sensitive topic, but exposing our schools - and the precious tax dollars that fund them - in the sights of personal injury lawyers is both wrong-headed and dangerous. This may turn into another sweeping litigation trend where the only true victors are the personal injury lawyers – who will surely win settlements that will only further strain precious school funding.

It’s hard to think of a dramatic and successful reform – in any industry – where the answer to all of our problems was to bring in personal injury lawyers. While something certainly needs to be done to fix the bullying epidemic in this nation’s schools, maybe it should be dealt with the old fashioned way – by identifying and punishing the bully by suspension or expulsion. Parents, teachers and students can solve this problem. Leave the lawyers out of the classroom.

Todd D. Lamb is the executive director of Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. This is his third opinion piece for Center Maryland.
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