Bullying in Schools Could Violate Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Department of Education issued guidance last week to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance comes in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to schools, colleges and universities, explaining educators’ legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment. President Obama also recorded a message about the problem broadcast on YouTube.

The White House and Department of Education also announced next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools. Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment. This conference will build upon efforts led by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to spark a dialogue on the ways in which communities can come together to prevent bullying and harassment.

“We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” said President Obama. “We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment.”

Following the release of today’s guidance, the Department plans to hold technical assistance workshops around the country in early 2011 to help educators better understand their obligations and the resources available to take prompt and effective steps that will end harassment and bullying in schools and on college campuses.

The Obama administration launched a Stop the Bullying Now campaign and www.bullyinginfo.org, a national database of effective anti-bullying programs. Read the “Dear Colleague” letter here or hear the President’s message here (or view it above).