Monday, November 8, 2010

Harassment and Bullying

Laws which prohibit bullying and harassment in school:
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Section 504 and Title II of the ADA: Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

School districts may violate these civil rights statutes and the Department's implementing regulations when peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability is sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment and such harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees.

What is harassment? verbal acts, name calling, graphic and written statements, or other conduct that may by physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating. It does not have to include an intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. It must create an environment for the student that interferes with his/her ability to participate in or benefit from opportunities at school.

When does it violate civil rights? When such harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability.

Who enforces such a violation? The Office of Civil Rights. For the OCR regional office serving your state, visit: or call 1-800-421-3481

Other laws against bullying/harassment?
No Child Left Behind(NCLB). The State of Michigan State Board of Education created a Statewide Safe School Choice Policy to be eligible to receive funds under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Pursuant to the NCLB policy any student who is a victim of a violent criminal offense has the right to transfer to another public school within the district, including public school academies (charter schools); and all students have the right to transfer to another school within the school district, including public school academies, if the school is labeled a Persistently Dangerous School.
What is a Persistently Dangerous School? If for three years 5 pupils (or 2.5%) enrolled in school have been expelled for more than 10 school days for: Arson, Physical Assault, Bomb or Similar threat, criminal sexual conduct, possession of a dangerous weapon, or if 5 pupils have been the victims of violent criminal offenses.
What is a violent criminal offense in this context? an act that constitutes criminal sexual conduct as defined by the Michigan Penal Code--follow this link:
and search for section 750.20b,c,d,e, or g. For example: If a child is under the age of 13 if there is sexual contact.
What is sexual contact? MCL 750.520 defines it as follows:

(q) "Sexual contact" includes the intentional touching of the victim's or actor's intimate parts or the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim's or actor's intimate parts, if that intentional touching can reasonably be construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, done for a sexual purpose, or in a sexual manner for: Revenge, or to inflict humiliation, or out of anger.

I have chosen only one violent criminal offense that could fall under this section, but there are several.

There are various laws out there to protect our children, but they are only as strong as the enforcement of them.
If you feel that your child has been a subject to harassment or bullying and the school has not addressed your concern, please contact me for a free initial consultation potentially followed by a case consult as to what you can do as a parent to ensure that this does not happen again to your child or to others that my be suffering as well.