Department of Education Clarifies Schools’ Responsibility to Keep Students Safe from Bullying and Harassment

The Department of Education recently issued guidance to educators on when acts of student bullying could violate federal education anti-discrimination laws.

The guidance comes in the wake of at least six teenagers who committed suicide in the past month and a half after being bullied based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. The department’s guidance explains educators’ legal obligations to protect students from bullying and sexual harassment and provides examples of harassment with information on how schools should respond.

“Federal leadership on this important issue is critical to ensure that schools are safe places for all students, and that they help foster a culture in which bias and bullying are not tolerated,” said David Waren, director of education for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in a statement.  “The guidelines will help community members work together to promote a civil and respectful environment for children, online as well as offline.”

The civil and human rights community has long been committed to help creating a safe school environment for our nation’s young people. In August, a group of more than 70 civil rights organizations, including The Leadership Conference and ADL, offered a set of recommendations for federal action to curb bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment to the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services.