DIFFERENT SEGMENTS OF THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY, AND THE SCHOOL ITSELF, HAVE DIVERGENT INTERESTS
These Interests Can Come into Conflict with Each Other,
Impairing ABR Implementation and the Protection of Students from Bullying.

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The interests of schools as social institutions are different from the interests of the individuals who make up the school. Also, within the school, different groups of people have different interests, for example, administrators, faculty, and students. This is no surprise to anyone who has experienced a contentious teachers' union contract negotiation.

The ABR creates a new set of conflicting interests among these different segments of the school community, and the school itself. The interests of the students include remaining safe from bullying, and not being accused of bullying. Teachers have an interest in minimizing disruptions to teaching, and all staff members have an interest in avoiding large increases in their workload, e.g., paperwork, and in avoiding personal liability for actions they take while on the job. The school as an institution has an interest in avoiding poor ABR grades, unfavorable OAL determinations, and State intervention, and in maintaining a positive public reputation, because a poor reputation could lead to lowered property values and lowered revenue.

To some extent, the interests of these different segments of the school community are in conflict with each other. Whereas it is in the interests of the school to minimize HIB reports on the EVVRS system to avoid state intervention and a damaged public reputation, it is in the interest of students to have staff members who are vigilant and unafraid to recognize and respond to HIB incidents, and it is in the interest of staff members to report HIB to avoid personal sanctions for non-compliance. These conflicts of interest underlie some of the implementation issues that have arisen with respect to the ABR, e.g., staff members who are reportedly told not to use the word "bullying," students who are unprotected from retaliation when they report incidents of HIB, and administrators who feel a need to screen reports of potential HIB before referring the reports to the ABS.

The intent of the ABR is to protect the interests of students, specifically students' right to have equal access to education and to remain safe in school. However, advice regarding compliance with the ABR is provided by school attorneys, whose task it is to protect the interests of the school. This is a fundamental structural conflict which can lead to legal advice that is inconsistent with the evidence-based practices recommended by anti-bullying efforts. As discussed on the "Who is the expert?" page of this website, it is important for schools to adopt strategies that merge the two goals of statutory compliance, and effective bullying prevention.