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Harassment, bullying and free expression: Guidelines for public schools seek middle ground

When Sally tells Jimmy that he’s going to hell for believing in a false religion, is that Sally exercising her First Amendment right to free expression, or is that Billy getting bullied? A broad coalition of educators and religious groups — from the National Association of Evangelicals to the National School Boards Association — on Tuesday (May 22) endorsed a new pamphlet to help teachers tackle such thorny questions, the Religion News Service reports. Authored chiefly by the American Jewish Committee, “Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools,” contains 11 pages of advice on balancing school safety and religious freedom.

“There are those who believe that we can’t have restriction on bullying and protect free speech; Conversely there are those who think that the rules against bullying are so important that they trump any concern for free speech,” said Marc Stern, the AJC’s chief counsel and lead author of the pamphlet.

“The organizations that have joined in these guidelines believe that that’s a false choice.”

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