School Board Liability: The Dangers of Labeling Students Part 1

What Role Does Tort Law Play in School Board Liability Cases?
March 13, 2014
School Board Liability: The Dangers of Labeling Students Part 2
March 25, 2014
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School Board Liability: The Dangers of Labeling Students Part 1

School Board Liability The Dangers of Labeling Students Part 1School Board Liability: The Dangers of Labeling Students Part 1

The idea of labeling students as learning-disabled is not a new one, nor has it always been a negative idea. In fact up until about the 1970s, labeling students was seen as a benefit. Some forms of labeling still present advantages, such as federal and local funding of special education programs being based on categories of disabilities, and labeling allowing the disability to be spotlighted in order to create public awareness of the issue. However in recent years, this labeling has seemed to be more and more frequent, and has led some to question if professionals in the medical field as well as the educational field are too quick to write off a child as having ADHD, a learning disability, or even autism.

Take the example of a story that recently broke about a seemingly autistic boy. Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob was diagnosed with autism when he was younger. As a result of the diagnosis Barnett tried several special education programs for her son, but educators told her there was no hope for him. Rather than giving up, she nurtured her son’s interests, and soon found that hiding within her son’s seemingly strange personality was actually a genius. Jacob Barnett is now 15 and is on track to win a Nobel Prize for his work in theoretical physics.

This, of course, is an extreme example, and truly autistic children will likely not have the same outcome. However, it terms of school board liability, it’s important that educators not be too quick to label and dismiss a child as damaged. An article on Education.com highlighted some of the disadvantages of labeling, pointing out that all kids have some degree of troubling behavior at one time or another. If the child is labeled early on, future teachers may overreact to the behavior of a labeled child that would normally be tolerated in another. There are many other disadvantages and dangers to labeling, which we will discuss in part 2 of this blog post. Until then, what are your thoughts on the issue?

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