The coronavirus has caused yet another unexpected serious problems in the lives of Americans – coronavirus bullying. Yes, unfortunately it is a thing. Because the coronavirus originated in China, there unfortunately has been an increase in the harassment, assaulting and targeting of Asian American families throughout the US. This type of racial hatred is not only unamerican and divisive, but is also inherently discriminatory, illegal and a violation of civil rights. As a result, on March 16, 2020, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) issued nationwide guidance calling on all school districts across the country to ensure that the civil rights of students are protected in order to continue to keep our students safe and secure.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin by schools receiving federal funds. Moreover, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as well as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), school districts must also prohibit discrimination based on a student’s disability. Thus, school districts should be mindful of their legal requirements under Title VI, Section 504 and Title II to ensure that all students affected by the coronavirus outbreak are able to study and learn in a safe educational environment that is free of discrimination, including during the period of school closure where students are accessing remote educational opportunities online.
In Connecticut, bullying is generally defined as the use of verbal or physical acts directed at a student that causes physical or emotion harm to such a student so as to create a hostile educational environment. Bullying includes any verbal and physical acts or gestures that are based on or perceived to be discriminatory based race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or express, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical appearance, or from any mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability.
Each school district in Connecticut is required to develop and implement a safety school climate plan to address the existence of bullying in schools. Schools are required to provide teachers and staff with training on bullying. It is important for parents to know that a school must notify the parents or guardians of students who commit any verified acts of bullying and the parents or guardians of students against whom such acts were directed not later than 48 hours after the completion of the investigation. The school must then invite the parents or guardians of a student who commits any verified act of bullying and the parents or guardians of the student against whom such act was directed to a meeting to communicate to such parents or guardians the measures being taken by the school to ensure the safety of the student against whom such act was directed and to prevent further acts of bullying.
Bullying safeguards prohibit and protect students from bullying on school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related events, at school functions or programs whether on or off school grounds, at school bus stops, on a school buses, and for any acts that occur outside of the school setting if such bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the student against whom such bullying was directed, infringes on the rights of the student against whom such bullying was directed at school, or substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
Parents are encouraged to file a formal bullying complaint with the local school district immediately after any bullying incident occurs. The procedure in which to file a bullying complaint can be found on your local school district website.
For more information on preventing student bullying and harassment, visit www.fortelawgroup.com