National education and labor news

Feds get tough on school bullying

Not only are bullying and harassment antisocial, intolerable and dangerous, they’re also against the law, the Obama administration warned in issuing guidelines for educators on how to address the problems.

Should school administrators fail to deal with harassment based on gender, race or other issues, they could be cited for contributing to a pattern of civil rights violations, leading to cuts in federal funding.

The guidelines were part of a letter sent by Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights, to thousands of schools, colleges, universities and school districts around the country. The letter included examples of bullying and harassment cases that constituted violations of federal civil rights laws.

According to Department of Education data, one-third of all students ages 12 to 18 felt that they were being bullied or harassed at school last year.

The Obama administration is also proposing $410 million in fiscal year 2011 spending for “successful, safe and healthy students,” a 12 percent increase over 2010.

Meanwhile, Congress is mulling passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would guarantee that homosexual and transgender students are explicitly protected from harassment and discrimination under federal law.

Under the bill, no school program receiving public funding would be allowed to exclude children because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Should schools continue to discriminate or sanction harassment in their federally funded programs, federal education agencies would be empowered to terminate funding.

The New York Times, Oct. 25

CNN, Oct. 28

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