“School bullies become tomorrow’s hate crimes defendants, while victims of bullying are more likely to drop out of school, struggle in class, engage in illegal drug use or become involved in the criminal justice system,” the DOJ said in a blog posted on Oct. 31 titled, “An End to Bullying & Equal Opportunities for All Students.” “Bullying is not a rite of passage; the impact of bullying extends far beyond the schoolhouse doors. Bullying can lead to violence, anxiety, depression and even suicide,” the blog added. “It is simply unacceptable, moreover, that any child should fear going to school because of harassment.”
The DOJ marked National Bullying Prevention Month in October with a pledge to make the most of its resources and authority to stop bullying in schools. “The Civil Rights Division is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that protect young people who are targeted because of their race, national origin, religion, sex or disability. This includes students who are harassed because they do not conform to gender norms of how a boy or girl is ‘supposed to’ act,” the DOJ said in the blog. “We hold school systems accountable when they fail to take the proper steps to address harassment within their schools,” it said. The DOJ reached “comprehensive and groundbreaking settlement agreements with numerous school districts across the country” in Mohawk County, N.Y., for example, “where a gay teen was physically and verbally abused for failing to conform to gender stereotypes” and in Philadelphia, “where Asian students were regularly harassed.”
In Anoka-Hennepin, Minn., the DOJ reached an agreement with the school district after it was determined that the district “failed to adequately address the harassment of students who did not conform to gender stereotypes in their schools.” “Students in Anoka-Hennepin were brave and spoke out. They brought the problems they were facing to the Civil Rights Division, and we worked with the school district to reach a blueprint for sustainable reform that we hope will be a model for schools across the nation,” the DOJ said. “The Obama Administration has made clear that bullying prevention is an issue of national priority,” it added. In 2011, the White House held a conference on bullying prevention.
The White House has announced support for the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which is aimed at ending discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools, and for other purposes. It also backs the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to address and take action to prevent bullying and harassment of students. “These bills would help ensure that school environments are free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment,” the DOJ said in the blog.