ABC News' Arlette Saenz reports:
The Department of Education issued guidance to educators across the country, clarifying that certain forms of bullying, such as harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered students based on gender stereotypes, violate federal education anti-discrimination laws, and in extreme cases, posed the possibility of pulling education funding from schools failing to comply with the department’s standards, which has never been done despite the option existing.
“In extreme cases, schools could be stripped of their federal education monies if they don’t comply with all of our civil rights laws,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali said in a conference call today.
The guidance issued by the Department of Education does not contain any new legal criteria but rather, for the first time, provides a clarification that bullying of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered students based on gender stereotypes is considered harassment.
“It is certainly the first time that the Department has made it clear that students that are members of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered community are protected by Title IX if they are bullied or harassed for not conforming to traditional gender roles,” Ali said.
In the form of a “Dear Colleague,” letter, the guidance was sent to over 15,000 schools and schools districts and over 5,000 colleges and universities across the country. The White House will also host a conference on bullying next year to spark a dialog between government officials, educators, parents and students on the ways to unite to prevent bullying in schools.
The Department of Education plans to work on the local level to eradicate bullying and the cultures that foster harassment in schools but believes everyone holds a responsibility to fight against the root causes of bullying.
“I think this is something all of us again have to step up. Nobody gets a pass here,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on the conference call. “We don’t get a pass. Congress doesn’t get a pass. Institutions of higher education, K-12 schools, whatever it might be, parents, really important the students themselves. We need to point fingers and we can fix this thing. So I think everyone who cares about our nation’s young people has a responsibility to step up and be part of the solution.”