The Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter in October 2010 outlining schools’ responsibilities for being aware of, responding to and preventing future incidents of bullying, discrimination and harassment. In response to the National School Board Association’s letter questioning a school’s responsibilities, the Department of Education response clearly states it did not overreach in its original guidance to school officials— it only reiterated existing laws and policies and gave examples of how school districts can help combat bullying and harassment.
Lessons Learned: Schools have been put on notice and must develop comprehensive programs to respond to incidents of bullying and they must take actions to prevent future bullying incidents. Schools who fail to take appropriate actions risk losing educational funding and expensive lawsuits at a time when a funding cliff is looming large. Lessons learned also demonstrate that status quo approaches are not effective in preventing bullying so it will be critical for school boards and school leaders to implement more effective prevention and intervention programs immediately and document all incidents of bullying and harassment on an ongoing basis.