The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the National Association of Attorneys General Bias Crime Task Force Education Subcommittee today issued Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crimes, A Guide for Schools, intended to help school officials deal more effectively with instances of harassment and violence in elementary and secondary schools.
"Our schools owe students a safe environment that is conducive to learning and that affords all students an equal opportunity to achieve high educational standards," U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in letter forwarding the guide to schools. "Harassment and hate crimes undermine these purposes and may cause serious harm to the development of students who are victimized by this behavior."
The latest FBI crime statistics indicate that there were more than 8,000 bias-motivated crimes reported in 1997. Of these, more than 10 per cent, 848, occurred in schools. In that same year, OCR received 211 racial harassment and 125 sexual harassment complaints.
The new guide provides practical step-by-step advice as to the most effective ways to deal with persistent episodes of harassment of students and hate-motivated threats and violence.
Specifically, the guide encourages school officials to:
The guide discusses various federal, state and local laws that address discrimination or criminal acts directed at students because of their race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and/or religion. Schools officials are encourage to take immediate and appropriate steps to stop such harassment and prevent its recurrence. When ignored, such demeaning and brutal harassment incidents can jeopardize students? academic achievement and undermine their physical and mental well-being. Such incidents can also provoke retaliatory violence, damage a school's reputation, and exacerbate community conflicts.
According to the new guidebook, creating a safe school climate in which all students feel welcome is the most effective way of protecting students from harassment and hate crimes.
Sample school policies listed as models in the guide include:
The National School Boards Association has called the new publication "the kind of good preventive work the field needs to help ensure that schools provide a safe and welcome environment for all students."
The guide is intended to: