Are Bad Divorces Affecting Children In The Classroom?

The Morning Call recently published an article decrying silly lawsuits in the United States. Maybe they’re onto something. After all, in other countries the idea of a lawsuit is practically unheard of. But according to David Tyack and Aaron Benavot who wrote about the issue of school litigation in the Law & Society Review, a whopping 1,883 state lawsuits slammed schools — from 1907 to 1916.

Nowadays, the numbers are much higher.

From 1967 to 1976, there were 7,017 state cases. The number of federal cases ballooned even more astronomically. 

The article contends that “frivolous” lawsuits cost millions. Not only that, but the litigation can end up hurting teachers or even kill their careers. Some lawsuits are justified, of course, but maybe not all. 

The Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service exists for “community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin” in addition to “violent hate crimes committed on the basis of: gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, color, and national origin.”

The problem is that some lawsuits have used the organization and its protections in an almost comical way. For example, some lawsuits cry foul when a white teacher marks down an African American student — after he didn’t turn in his homework. 

According to the article, a lot of lawsuits arise not from problems in the classroom, but from problems at home. Christopher Brooks writes: “Society has secularized…There were about 2 million divorced people in the U.S. in 2017. Though dissolutions are often a justifiable remedy that can lead to a positive co-parenting model, schools and related institutions are often left having to deal with the aftermath of bad divorces.”

We would argue that Brooks’ article presents a lopsided argument. To blame parents who separate for the problems inside school has no real basis in fact. The article presents no empirical evidence of an actual connection between the divorce rate and litigation against schools, or that divorced or divorcing parents are more likely to attack schools with frivolous lawsuits.

In fact, the very idea of frivolous lawsuits is overblown. Most lawyers don’t get paid unless they win a case! That means that they don’t take cases that won’t lead to a settlement or win in court. It simply doesn’t make good business sense. 

We believe parents who are no longer in love often have no other choice but to divorce and move on with their lives. To place blame on them makes them more likely to do what must be done or move on — and that negativity is far more likely to run off on their children and find its way into the classroom.