Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance to all public schools stating, instances of “bullying of students with disabilities that results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit constitutes a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under IDEA that must be remedied.”
The guidance explains that while it may be appropriate to consider a change in placement of a child who was bullied, students with disabilities should not be placed in a more restrictive “protective” setting to avoid bullying behavior. As part of its response to bullying, schools should convene an IEP Team meeting to determine if the students needs have changed; exercise caution when considering a change in placement to ensure LRE; and should not attempt to result the bullying by unilaterally changing the frequency, duration, intensity, placement, or location of the students special education and related services.
This latest communication from OSERS to schools reinforces prior communications which addressed harassment of students with disabilities in schools but goes a step further in providing schools with evidence-based practices for preventing and addressing bullying.
While the Department recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will address every situation, it does put forth effective, evidence-based practices that schools are encouraged to consider as part of any bullying prevention and intervention program:
- Use a comprehensive multitiered behavioral framework
- Teach appropriate behaviors and how to respond
- Provide active adult supervision
- Train and provide ongoing support for staff and students
- Develop and implement clear policies to address bullying
- Monitor and track bullying behaviors
- Notify parents when bullying occurs
- Sustain bullying prevention efforts over time
(see full list, description, and additional resources here)
In 2008, CEC released its Policy on Safe and Positive School Climate, recognizes the important impact a safe and positive school climate has on the personal development and academic achievement of all students. Included in this Policy, CEC highlights key areas to ensure the creation of safe learning environments that contribute to all students’ cognitive, academic, social-emotional, and ethical development, such as:
- Schools should have clear policies that prohibit harassment and discriminatory behaviors;
- Harassment or bullying should carry the responsibility to report these behaviors to relevant authorities and school personnel similar to the professional obligation to report child abuse;
- School policies, activities, and interventions related to a positive school climate should address the needs and safety of adults as well as students;
- To support antidiscriminatory policies, schools should provide students, staff, and administrators with access to a range of resources;
- Teacher and educational leadership preparation programs should prepare educators, administrators, and related services personnel to create safe learning environments and to intervene effectively in the event that harassment or discriminatory behaviors occur.