Article Preview, Editor Blog

Article Preview: Morrow v. Balaski: When Good Intentions Go Bad

Contributing Editor: Heather Reid
Bullying, both in schools and online, has become a topic of national discussion. In response, many state legislatures have enacted anti-bullying statutes which prohibit bullying both on and off school property. These laws define bullying behavior and require schools to devise and adopt strategies for prevention and intervention. Notably, they do not provide victims of bullying with a private right of action against schools under the bullying statute. The plaintiffs in Morrow v. Balaski brought such a cause of action, filing a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Blackhawk High School in Pennsylvania. Brittany and Emily Morrow claimed that the school’s inaction and failure to protect them from bullying by another student violated their substantive Due Process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Primarily, they argued the school had a “special relationship” with its students, therefore establishing a duty to protect them from dangerous situations. The Third Circuit disagreed with the plaintiffs, reaffirming that there is no “special relationship” between public schools and their students; absent that “special relationship,” a school has no duty to protect students from third party actions.