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Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Guidance to U.S. Schools

  • Published: 2014-10-23 (Revised/Updated 2014-11-28) : U.S. Department of Education (ed.gov).
  • Synopsis: U.S. Department of Education help and guidelines on students with disabilities being bullied in school.

Main Document

Quote: "Help is available for those who are either targets of disability bullying or know of someone who might be..."

As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated, including against America's 6.5 million students with disabilities.

The Department issued guidance in the form of a letter to educators detailing public schools' responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring.

"While there is broad consensus that bullying cannot be tolerated, the sad reality is that bullying persists in our schools today, especially for students with disabilities," said Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. "Basic decency and respect demand that our schools ensure that all their students learn in a safe environment. I look forward to continuing our work with schools to address and reduce incidents of bullying so that no student is limited in his or her ability to participate in and benefit from all that our educational programs have to offer."

Since 2009, OCR has received more than 2,000 complaints regarding the bullying of students with disabilities in the nation's public elementary and secondary schools.

Today's guidance builds upon anti-bullying guidance the Department has issued in recent years concerning schools' legal obligations to fix the problem, including:

The latest letter makes clear that the protections for students with disabilities who are bullied on any basis extend to the roughly three quarters of a million students who are not eligible for IDEA services but are entitled to services under the broader Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That law bars discrimination on the basis of disability in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Help is available for those who are either targets of disability bullying or know of someone who might be, such as:

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