Feds issue guidance on bullying, discrimination

In the wake of recent highly publicized student suicides, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance Tuesday to clarify the role school administrator play in responding to and prevention of bullying and discriminatory harassment.

In letters that went out to thousands of local educational agencies, the department reminded school officials to consider not just violations of anti-bullying regulations but also whether some of the same student misconduct could be violation of federal civil rights protections.

The notice included reference to the key federal laws that school officials must be aware in evaluating student behavior. These include:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

The memo also notes that once school officials are aware of, or suspicious of, a possible student-on-student harassment, they must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred. If harassment has occurred, school leaders must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence.

Federal officials note that the responsibility to carry out these efforts must be taken regardless of whether the student makes a complaint, asks the school to take action, or identifies the harassment as a form of discrimination.

The California Department of Education has also recently updated its webpage dealing with bullying and hate-related behavior in schools. The CDE points out that such incidents occur daily in and around California schools and recent research shows that the impacts are more damaging than previously thought. These actions can span from minor offenses like name-calling, fist fights, and social exclusion to more serious criminal acts of libel, repeated physical attacks, and sexual harassment.

To read more visit:

http://j.mp/aPpGok

U.S. Department of Education's discrimination memo

http://j.mp/ctD20Q

California Department of Education's anti-bullying web-page

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