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Know Your Rights: Bullying and Discrimination

Your child has a right to be safe at school. Learn more in this article.

What are bullying and discrimination?

Bullying is when someone is being hurt by the words or actions of others, usually more than once. Bullying can increase a student’s risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Bullying can cause school attendance issues and behavior problems.

Discrimination is when a student is treated worse or bullied because of the student’s immigration status,
disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

What if school staff see bullying?

School staff who see bullying must take immediate steps to intervene when safe to do so.

When harassment happens, a school must:
Take quick and effective steps to stop the harassment
Take action to stop the harassment from happening again

What are some signs that a student is being bullied?

  • Long-term sadness, anxiety, or low self esteem
  • Major changes in diet
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Isolation from others and lack of friendships
  • Fear, such as avoiding taking the school bus, or walking only a certain way to school
  • Damage to clothing, school materials, or the body

What should schools do?

Schools must:

  • Have school safety plans to prevent bullying, harassment, crime, and violence.
  • Have an anti-bullying policy that prohibits bullying, harassment, and discrimination on the basis of immigration status, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
  • Have clear steps for filing complaints.
  • Prevent retaliation.
  • Keep complaints confidential.

What can I do if a student is being bullied?

  • Talk to your child about the bullying situation and record the following information:
    • Who is doing the bullying?
    • What happened? Was it verbal bullying? Physical bullying? Cyber-bullying?
    • What days and times was the student bullied?
    • Where did the bullying take place?
    • Did the student report the bullying to anyone at school?
  • Tell your student’s school what is happening
  • Take notes of who you speak to on the phone when you call your school. Write down what you talked about and next steps.

What if I am not happy with a school’s response to my bullying concerns?

Take your problem to the school district in writing and sign and date your letter within 6 months of the bullying incident.

If the bullying is discriminatory, you can file a complaint with the district. This is called a Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP) and/or file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

Bullying and Students with Disabilities

Bullying, harassment, intimidation, or abuse due to a student’s disability is against the law. Students with a disability have the right to be safe at school!

Bullying and Student Discipline

If a student has been suspended or recommended for expulsion, or transferred to an alternative school for behavior or issues relating to bullying, report the bullying to the student’s school and school district immediately.

Ask the school to work with you to address the bullying in a way that will keep your student safe, in school, and encourage a safe learning climate.

Want more information? Download our Education Manual: A Basic Guide to Students' Rights for Parents and Advocates.


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