Currently no federal laws directly address bullying. However, under civil rights laws, schools that receive federal funds are required to respond to discriminatory harassment: situations where a student is bullied because of race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion. Educators from across the Pacific Northwest are invited to a free conference September 19 to look at the relationship between civil rights laws and schools’ anti-bullying policies and programs. The daylong event, taking place in Lewiston, ID, will home in on strategies for preventing and responding to incidents of harassment, bullying, and hate crimes that create unsafe learning environments.
Students involved in bullying are more likely to struggle in school, use drugs, and have physical and mental health issues that can linger well into adulthood. Young people who do the bullying also pay a price—they are more likely to be violent as adults and get involved in criminal activity. Even bystanders, the young people who are witnesses to bullying, are more likely to become depressed, anxious, and feel unsafe at school.
- U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
Staff from the sponsoring organizations—the Region X Equity Assistance Center (EAC) at Education Northwest and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights—will share expertise in getting schools, parents, and communities to work together to achieve school safety through effective school policies, fair discipline practices, and mutual engagement. Joyce Harris, director of the Region X EAC describes the conference as an opportunity for district and school staff responsible for school safety to review their existing efforts in this area and get resources for strengthening their schools’ policies and practices. “The start of the school year is a good time for district and building staff to get up to date on the current legal requirements schools must meet to ensure that school policies and practices protect the civil rights of each student,” says Harris. “New guidance released this year is a reminder that retaliation is a violation of federal laws and addresses the bullying of students with disabilities.”
School and district administrators, counselors, and other stakeholders are encouraged to register soon as space is limited. Registrations must be received by September 17, 2013.