Bullying and Harassment - Office of Civil Rights- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Bullying Prevention and Intervention Resources

Bullying and Harassment - Office of Civil Rights

To:Superintendents, Directors of Charter Schools, Directors of Approved Special Education Schools, Directors of Education Collaboratives
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Date:November 3, 2010

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I urge all district leaders to closely review the letter on bullying and harassment issued by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, and to discuss it with your legal counsel. The letter, dated October 26, 2010, is available online at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html .

As the OCR letter states, "some student misconduct that falls under a school's or district's anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal antidiscrimination laws" that prohibit harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, or sex. OCR reminds us that harassment on the basis of these enumerated categories is discrimination and a federal civil rights violation that schools are obligated to address. Therefore, when an incident is reported, schools must look beyond how it is labeled - i.e., bullying - and consider whether the reported conduct may be a violation of federal civil rights law. For example, when students are bullied on the basis of their lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender status, creating a hostile environment at school, the conduct also may be considered sexual harassment or gender-based harassment that violates Title IX.

The OCR letter provides examples and helpful guidance on how schools may meet their obligations under federal civil rights laws and create a safe and supportive school climate for all students.





Last Updated: November 10, 2010



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