CAS Attorneys Mike Starvaggi and Brad Stuhler Conduct DASA Workshop for Middle School Principals

CAS Attorneys Mike Starvaggi and Brad Stuhler presented a workshop at a recent joint meeting of the Nassau County and Suffolk County Middle School Principals entitled The “Flip Side” of DASA – Being Aware of the Rights of the Alleged Bully

With the proliferation of DASA-related cases within New York State and the expansive scope of the law, all of the recent focus has been on targeting bullying in all forms and taking decisive action against it.  However, often lost in the DASA frenzy is the fact that the alleged bully has First Amendment rights which may be implicated by the imposition of school discipline.  Since bullying occurs by means of the written or spoken word, a free speech analysis is always pertinent to bullying cases.  And while pre-DASA law provides guidelines for the balancing of First Amendment rights against a school’s interest in maintaining order, DASA has created an expanded definition of prohibited speech and made punishment for such speech mandatory.  As a result, administrators find themselves in a new legal landscape and can expect a backlash of First Amendment lawsuits to counter the new war on bullying.  In fact, hidden in the “small print” of NYSED’s “Resource and Promising Practices Guide for School Administrators & Faculty” is the following warning, “It is important to note that the regulation of off campus conduct that is in the form of verbal or written speech whether communicated face to face, in writing or electronically may implicate the First Amendment rights of the speaker.”

This presentation discussed the accused bully’s First Amendment rights in the context of DASA and provided recommended practices for line administrators to navigate DASA-related discipline.  Specific attention was given to identification and documentation of key issues which will help avoid claims by the alleged bully.

CAS members may access The “Flip Side” of DASA – Being Aware of the Rights of the Alleged Bully on our website at https://casliny.com/membership/resources/