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Department of Education — Teachers Can Be Held Accountable for Bullying

Teachers can be held legally accountable for bullying.

Bullying has garnered its fair share of headlines of late, and rightfully so. Hatable villains like Jennifer Petkovs make our skin crawl, although we don’t ever hear about them until long after they’ve wreaked havoc on their victims. Some of those victims, like Kathleen Edward, receive an outpouring of support. Others, like Tyler Clementi, take their lives before we’re able to tell them how much we care.

Sadly, bullying headlines are becoming more and more bizarre. Sylvia Mojica was recently arrested for arming her son with a knife and a bb gun (what, in case he couldn’t get close enough?) after he complained about getting pushed around at school. And then there’s Clint McCance, a member of an Arkansas school board, who allegedly expressed anti gay sentiments (which were littered with grammatical errors — just saying) on his Facebook page.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that the Department of Education is taking action via a formal communication addressed to teachers and administrators. 

The letter, which was sent out to thousands of school districts and universities, warns educators that, according to federal law, they can be held accountable for bullying. It specifies that harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex or disability violates federal civil rights laws. It also identifies four primary types of bullying — verbal acts, name-calling, graphic and written statements in any medium, and “other conduct physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating.”

But the letter does more than just cite the law. It also gives educators examples of bullying as well as advice on how teachers should react. The clip I saw on CNN makes specific mention of one such example cited — gay and lesbian students. The letter emphasizes that such students are protected under title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The correspondence, the first of its kind, essentially demands that teachers and administrators become part of the solution — or else. And I, for one, am glad. Bullying is not going to go away unless everyone takes an active role. And reminding teachers that they could go to jail for “tolerating, not adequately addressing, encouraging, or ignoring” bullying was a prudent thing to do.

Do you think the action taken by the Department of Education will help curtail instances of bullying?

Photo — Stock.xchng

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