Letter from the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education regarding Bullying and Harassment
As you know, student suicides resulting from the bullying and harassment activities of other youths have escalated in the recent past and much of the focus has been on school knowledge of and response to the bullying and harassing behavior. On Tuesday, October 26, 2010, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter concerning schools’ obligations to protect students from student-on-student harassment on the basis of sex (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972), race, color, and national origin (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and disability (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). The letter clarifies the relationship between bullying and discriminatory harassment, provides examples of harassment, and illustrates how a school should respond in each case. I encourage you to share the information in this letter widely with your staff. The Dear Colleague letter and other relevant information are available on OCR’s website.
Additionally, Kentucky law has strengthened the school staff investigation and reporting requirements and includes the responsibility to report any knowledge or reasonable suspicion of conduct which would constitute victimization, commission of any felony offense specified in KRS Chapter 508, of a student by another student while on school premises, on school-sposored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event. KRS 158.156 was passed by our state legislature in 2008 to require responsible supervision of the students entrusted in our care, both the students who would perpetrate these actions and those who would suffer at their hands. It bears noting that though the civil laws only protect students from bullying resulting from discrimination of a protected status, the Kentucky Penal Code, KRS Chapters 500 et seq., as well as other civil liability laws (e.g., libel and slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress) are not limited to acts against those with protected statuses.
The modes and frequency of bullying have increased through technology such as the Internet and chat boards. As a result, bullying is more pervasive by reaching students even in the once safe home environment. Please monitor student use of your school’s resources and the policies for use to ensure student bullying is not facilitated by these modes of communication. You will also want to review your school bullying and harassment investigation and response policies and procedures, in light of this information, and can contact our agency with any questions.
Again, we encourage parents and students to work with the local school district staff if at all possible to find and attain an amicable resolution of issues, including those of student safety.
Finally, if you are seeking legal advice regarding this matter, you can consult either the Children’s Law Center (CLC) or a private attorney. CLC is a non-profit organization that provides legal guidance and representation to families regarding educational issues such as this.
Office of Continuous Improvement and Support
Division of Student Success
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Frankfort, KY 40601
Fax (502) 564-7820