The Obama Administration on Tuesday issued guidance to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws.
Officials described the advisory, issued by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, as the federal government’s most comprehensive guidance to date on how civil rights law applies to the sort of campus situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide.
The guidance, which comes in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to schools, colleges and universities, explains educators’ legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment. The letter provides examples of harassment and illustrates how a school should respond in each case.
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.
President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative.
“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 in a video posted last week.
“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,” the President said.