Reproduced from ed.gov
Keeping Students with Disabilities Safe from Bullying
As Secretary Duncan has noted, the Department of Education is committed to making sure that all of our young people grow up free of fear, violence, and bullying. Bullying not only threatens a student’s physical and emotional safety at school, but fosters a climate of fear and disrespect,
creating conditions that negatively impact learning—undermining students’ ability to achieve to
their full potential. Unfortunately, we know that children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by bullying.
Factors such as physical vulnerability, social skills challenges, or intolerant environments may increase
the risk of bullying. Students who are targets of bullying are more likely to experience lower academic achievement, higher truancy rates,
feelings of alienation, poor peer relationships, loneliness, and depression. We must do everything
we can to ensure that our schools are safe and positive learning environments—where all students can learn.
To that end, today, ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued
guidance to educators and stakeholders on the matter of bullying of students with disabilities.
This guidance provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities to ensure that students with disabilities who are subject to bullying continue to receive free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, States and
school districts are obligated to ensure that students with disabilities receive FAPE in the least
restrictive environment (LRE). This guidance explains that any bullying of a student with
disabilities which results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit is considered a denial of FAPE. Furthermore, this letter notes that certain changes to an educational
program of a student with a disability (e.g., placement in a more restricted “protected” setting to avoid bullying behavior) may constitute a denial of FAPE in the LRE. Schools have an obligation to ensure that a student with disabilities who is bullied, continues to
receive FAPE as outlined in his or her individualized education program (IEP). IEPs, as well as
504 plans, can be useful in outlining specialized approaches for preventing and responding to bullying, as well as providing additional supports and services to students with disabilities. This guidance also offers effective evidence-based practices for preventing and addressing bullying.
“This guidance is a significant step forward for students facing bullying,” said Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a leading national advocacy organization. “We applaud and commend the Department for reinforcing that when a child is being bullied, it is inappropriate to ‘blame the victim’ and remove them from the general education classroom.