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October 27th, 2010
11:20 AM ET

Government warns schools that bullying can violate civil rights laws

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined other administration officials on a phone call with reporters about the new guidelines Tuesday.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined other administration officials on a phone call with reporters about the new guidelines Tuesday.

Tom Cohen
CNN

Washington (CNN) - Bullying and harassment in schools often includes violations of federally protected civil rights, the federal government warned Tuesday in new guidelines for educators on how to address the problem.

If school administrators fail to properly deal with harassment based on gender, race or other issues, they risk being cited for contributing to a pattern of civil rights violations that could, in extreme cases, lead to a cut in federal funding, according to top officials who spoke to reporters on a conference call about the new guidelines.

"In extreme cases, schools could be stripped of their federal education monies if they don't comply with all of our civil rights laws," said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. Also on the call were Arne Duncan, secretary of education, and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes.

The issue of harassment gained prominence this year after a spate of suicides by students who were being bullied. President Obama has called for greater awareness of the problem, saying the nation must "dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up."

The guidelines were part of a letter that began "Dear Colleague" sent Tuesday to thousands of schools, colleges, universities and school districts around the country that included examples of bullying and harassment cases that constituted violations of federal civil rights laws.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Bullying
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. John Linn

    why hasn't anyone realy talked about the church groups that preach hate against gay, lesbian,transgender lifestyles. I'm gay and there are a lot of churchs that preach hate . Also is it legal for a Dr to ask if I'm gay or straight

    October 28, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  2. marie

    I hope the offices of the Secretary of Education and the Federal Attorney General all look into the incident of a school board member in Arkansas spewing homophobic rhetoric on Facebook and advise the local community how to remove him from his position on the school board. Also I hope his employer follows suit.

    October 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm |