Fed anti-bullying campaign falls short for black kids
Monique W. Morris, The Grio | October 28, 2010

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to educators, elevating the importance of reducing bullying in schools. In the 10-page letter, Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali wrote, “some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy may also trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office of Civil Rights.”

The letter covers broad ground with respect to the need for schools to intervene on behalf of students whose rights may have been violated by hostile actions, words, or environments that encourage harassment of students as a result of their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability.

The document also provides several hypothetical examples of abusive and/or harassing behaviors that would be a violation of students’ civil rights, and for which the school would be “responsible for addressing.”

However, less guidance is provided when it comes to how these schools should address the issue, opening the door for a potential reliance on ineffective zero-tolerance policies. While many schools have adopted anti-bullying policies that seek to address the problem holistically, many more have dealt with bullying through zero-tolerance policies that exacerbate racial disparity and increase the criminalization of youth without addressing the culture and/or root causes of the abuse and violence that they seek to remedy.  (Read the full article)