In Delaware each school district and charter school has to prohibit bullying, as well as take a number of steps to prevent and respond to bullying.1This law requires school districts to have procedures to respond to reports of bullying. These procedures also serve as a mechanism for parents and students to report disability based harassment to schools. If a student is experiencing bullying, the student (or parent/guardian) should obtain the school’s bullying policy and utilize the appropriate mechanism to report the bullying in writing2. Steps schools take in response to bullying should not harm the victim. The school should also work to stop future harassment and prevent retaliation.

Schools have a duty to protect students with disabilities from harassment by staff and by other students. School districts may violate civil rights statutes, including Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, when peer harassment based on disability3 is serious and the school does not address it well enough (or ignores it or otherwise allows it to happen).4 Schools are responsible for addressing harassment incidents if the school knows about the incident or reasonably should know – this is one reason why it is important to report bullying in writing, so that you can show that the school knew about the bullying.

If the harassment rises to the level of negatively affecting your ability to benefit your schooling, the harassment may constitute a denial of a FAPE; the least restrictive environment requirement may also be violated, as a hostile environment may prevent the child from being educated with his or her peers without disabilities to the fullest extent possible. To address the bullying and harassment, it may be necessary to amend your IEP or 504 plan to better protect you.

1 14 Del. C. § 4112D.

2 You want to make these reports in writing so that you have proof that you made the report, should you need it later.

3 Under these laws, you cannot discriminate against a “protected class”, which means a group that – under the law – cannot be discriminated against. Other protected classes include race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. Other laws may have additional protected classes.

4 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Dear Colleague letter dated October 26, 2010. See also U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Dear Colleague letter dated July 25, 2000 (in addition to potential violation of ADA Title II and/or Section 504 if the harassment creates a hostile environment, the harassment may violation state and local child abuse, criminal, and civil rights laws).