Students with disabilities receive protection from discrimination under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). School districts receiving federal funds are required to adhere to these federal statutes. The laws mandate a district to develop and disseminate an official statement prohibiting discrimination and establish grievance procedures. The statement and grievance procedures are typically available by searching “bullying” on the school districts’ Web sites.
The Office of Civil Rights enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA. Individuals and organizations may file complaints with OCR regarding alleged discrimination. Under the IDEA, a child who has an individualized education program (IEP) is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Act(s) of discrimination may prevent a child from receiving FAPE, which would violate the provisions of IDEA. The U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS), enforces the IDEA.
The launching of the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee, which is a federal interagency effort, occurred this year. The Committee agency members are
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- Office of National Drug Control Policy
- U. S. Department of Agriculture
- U. S. Department of Education
- U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
- U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- U. S. Department of Justice
- U. S. Department of Labor
Up-to-date information addressing bullying and the Committee’s activities is available at http://www.bullyinfo.org
The Office of Civil Rights released a document July 25, 2000, addressing the responsibilities of educational institutions under Section 504 and the ADA. Although the OCR document is ten years old, it provides insight into the problem regarding discrimination of students with disabilities and outlines remedies to address it. Examples of disability harassment cited in the July 25 document include abusive jokes, name-calling, threats, bullying, sexual and physical assault, and others. The document is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/disabharassltr.html
Some children may have difficulty expressing what is occurring in the classroom or hallway, at recess or after-school/extracurricular activities, or on the bus or playground. Changes in the child’s typical behavior may be indicative of discrimination-related problems. If a parent suspects his/her child is experiencing discrimination, contacting the school district immediately to address the issue is imperative.