LANSING -- Federal education officials issued a letter Tuesday clarifying the responsibility of schools to prevent bullying of students with disabilities, saying that attacks could violate the federal guarantee of a free appropriate public education if they interfere with educational benefits.
The issue of children with disabilities being bullied has come to the forefront in Michigan recently after the parents of a Livonia Public Schools student filed a federal lawsuitalleging the students and staff of his elementary school are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing the child to be bullied over his peanut allergy.
"[B]ullying of a student with a disability that results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit constitutes a denial of a free appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that must be remedied," the letter states.
The letter includes suggestions of best practices for school districts to address bullying, including parent notification, training for school staff and tracking bullying incidents throughout the school year.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has a public awareness campaign to reduce bullying in schools, and has scheduled a Twitter chat on back-to-school bullying prevention for Aug. 29.
Michigan state law requires school districts to have an anti-bullying policy in place, and the Michigan Department of Education provides a model policy that school districts can adopt.