Unremediated harassment, teasing or bullying can deny a student a FAPE

July 9, 2018

Back in 2000, the Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education issued a joint statement regarding harassment of students in schools based on disability. Federal law defines disability harassment as intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student's participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution's program.


The statement acknowledges that disability harassment can have a "profound impact on students, raise safety concerns, and erode efforts to ensure these students have equal access to the benefits an education offers." Schools, colleges, and universities have an obligation under federal law to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. States and school districts have a responsibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, commonly called the IDEA, to ensure that a free appropriate public education--a FAPE--is available to eligible students with disabilities. Disability harassment that adversely affects an elementary or secondary student's education may be a denial of FAPE under the IDEA and Section 504. Such harassment may also violate state and local civil rights, child abuse, and criminal laws. 


In 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that if a teacher deliberately ignores the teasing of a child and this abuse is so severe that the child can derive no benefit from the services they are offered by the school district, the child has been denied a FAPE. 





In 2014, the Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter condemning   Oct. 21 2014




The Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in a recent decision in which the court held that the school district had provided a plan for the student that contains many of the recommendations to combat bullying set forth in the letter issued in 2014 by the Department of Education. And the student had not shown that he would be unable to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances. 





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