A graduate of Willamette University College of Law, I was a practicing attorney in Oregon before transitioning to educational technology consulting, and then to a focus on digital safety, bullying, and harassment.
My approach to bullying prevention and response is grounded in research and helps schools to implement a comprehensive approach that fully engages students and resolves bullying situations in a way that is reasonably calculated to support all students.
My focus is on achieving the following:
- Schools are held accountable to remedy the harm inflicted by students or staff on a student or students.
- Hurtful situations within schools and online are effectively addressed to allow students who were targeted and, to the fullest extent possible, those who have been hurtful to continue to be part of a school community–with a full resolution of the concerns.
- The school engages in comprehensive efforts to remedy the hostile environment that has created concerns for the targeted student–and quite likely other students
You can review my resume here.
I have deep knowledge of case law, federal and state laws, and regulations associated with bullying and discriminatory harassment. I approach litigation or agency actions with a comprehensive mindset and am able to identify what school leaders should do under the laws and regulations, what the frequent missteps are, and the degree of harm to students who have been targeted. I am not just a bullying and legal expert; I am an expert communicator–a former teacher who has presented at numerous workshops and conferences.
Articles and Law Review Articles
This is an article I am planning to submit to a law review, but have not yet. Establishing Deliberate Indifference to a Hostile Environment Under Civil Rights Laws: Reliance on Civil Rights Regulations and Guidance
Cyberbullying: From School House to Courthouse. Co-authored with Adele Kimmel. Trial. American Association for Justice. January 2018.
Student Online Off-campus Speech: Assessing “Substantial Disruption.” Albany Journal of Law and Technology. Dec 3, 2012.
School Response to Cyberbullying and Sexting: The Legal Challenges, BYU Educ. & L.J. 75 (2011)
Nancy Willard, “Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Use of the Internet in K-12 Schools,” BYU Educ. & L.J. 225 (2000)
Expert Witness and Consultancy
I can provide expert witness services for plaintiff counsel in situations involving litigation in relation to discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment cases under civil rights laws, including answering such questions as:
- Whether serious, persistent, or pervasive harassment, discrimination, or bullying occurred that was based on protected class status or perception of such status.
- Whether appropriate school officials had actual knowledge of the situation.
- Whether the school investigated appropriately in a manner that would identify the critical factors necessary to ensure an effective intervention.
- Whether the response to the situation was adequate in light of the situation and was reasonably calculated to stop the harassment, prevent retaliation, remedy the harm and prevent future harm to the target, and correct aspects of the environment that appeared to be fueling the harassment.
- Whether any interference or denial of access to educational or school opportunities resulted for the target.
- A strategy attorneys can likely use to ensure that a student who is experiencing a hostile environment will be considered to be a student within a protected class — even if at first it does not appear that this student fits within the protected classes.
These services can include assistance in investigation and discovery, as well as providing expert testimony.
School District Services
For attorneys representing school districts, these services will primarily focus on the development of recommendations for a settlement agreement or consent decree to address ongoing concerns of a student or group of students in a positive manner that resolves the current situation, remedies the harm, and moves the district forward in a manner that supports all students.
I have paid close attention to what happened in the Anoka Hennepin School District, which in 2012, entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. The Assistant Attorney General stated at the time, “We hope the district will become a model for schools nationwide by providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for all students free from bullying and harassment.”
Components of this consent decree are considered essential. However, a review of the annual reports required to be submitted by the district reveals that problems remained. I consider this decree approach to be an excellent initial model to follow–but the approach needs to be informed and updated by more current research insight.
Also, I can provide guidance to school district counsel on strategies for schools to respond to free speech, hate speech, and off-campus speech concerns.
In addition, as a former special education teacher, I have paid close attention to the concerns of students with disabilities who are experiencing disabilities. I can provide guidance on how schools can best address these situations within the context of the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.
Nancy Willard is a pioneer in the identification, analysis and prevention of bullying and cyberbullying in schools and has done as much as anybody to inspire a level of concern and scholarship in the area that will eventually lead to a reduction in school bullying. While the law has been slow to address the reality and impact of bullying in schools and workplaces, Nancy has been on the cutting edge of legal research and scholarship. She combines her extensive teaching and legal experience with a fiery devotion to making the school environment safer for all children, especially the marginalized ones who are frequently targets of aggressive mistreatment.
Nancy has an unparalleled grasp on laws and regulations that can be called on to address bullying behavior. Most importantly, she knows how to identify where a school and/or school district failed to adequately protect students from bullying and how to use those laws and regulations to place those schools on the right track. No attorney should venture into this area without a sophisticated understanding of the laws and regulations and of what evidence is required to prove a bullying case within the current legal environment.
Nancy Willard is the most qualified person I know to act as an expert witness in school bullying cases. Nancy understands the school environment, the various players involved in bullying cases, and where well-intentioned plaintiffs’ representatives can go wrong with an inadequate understanding and appreciation of the laws and regulations. I encourage attorneys representing children who were bullied in school and their parents to contact Nancy as early as possible, while the facts are still being investigated. Nancy knows what to look for, what to ask, and what the issues are. She is an incredibly valuable asset for any plaintiff’s counsel in a school bullying case.
I have known Nancy Willard for thirteen years and have enjoyed collaborating and corresponding with her over the years. Nancy has impressive energy, a passionate sense of mission, and a no-nonsense approach. You can trust Nancy to “tell it like it is” and just what your or your clients might prefer to hear. She knows her stuff and I recommend her highly and without qualification.
Mike Tully is an attorney who served on the Board of Directors of the International Bullying Prevention Association from 2007 – 2010. He served as a school attorney and a bullying and cyberbullying prevention specialist at the University of Arizona College of Education. Mr. Tully also authored the Pima County, Arizona, workplace bullying policy.