Bullying Resolution

This Bullying Resolution page provides parents with insight to assist them in achieving an effective resolution of the more serious or chronic situations where their child is being repeatedly bullied or harassed. This service is for residents in Oregon. However, the information will be relevant in other states. 

Please note: I would rather help schools do a better job responding to these situations. But school leaders appear to be resistant to listening and learning how they could respond more effectively. It is my hope that by assisting parents and organizations helping parents do a better job documenting situations and knowing hot they might approach their school, or file a complaint, this may increase the willingness of school leaders to listen and make positive changes. 

A New Pathway to a Resolution

While many parents and students become frustrated with the response of the principal when serious or chronic situations are reported, too often they may think that nothing more can be done or they do not know how to proceed. Depending on your child’s “status,” there are four possible paths:

  • If your child is within a protected class–race, religion, national origin, sexual minority or orientation, disabilities–or is being treated badly because of the perspective of being in a protected class, this constitutes discriminatory harassment under civil rights laws.
    • Complaints on this basis can be filed with the district, with appeal to the Oregon Department of Education. Alternatively, a complaint can be filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. With the current administration, I do not suggest this route.
  • If your child is experiencing sexual harassment, this constitutes a violation of Title IX.
    • Complaints on this basis can be filed with the district, with appeal to the Oregon Department of Education. Alternatively, a complaint can be filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Again, with the current administration, I do not suggest this route.
  • If your child has disabilities and is on an IEP or 504 Plan, the school is required to address the hurtful conduct in a comprehensive manner after completing an informed evaluation in an IEP or 504 meeting. See below on obtaining and Independent Educational Evaluation.
    • If your child is being persistently treated badly and is demonstrating symptoms of traumatic distress, it will likely be possible for you to obtain a mental health diagnosis associated with this trauma. Then, under Section 504, your child has a “disability” and the bullying of your child on any basis constitutes a violation of Section 504 and must be addressed in a 504 meeting.
    • Mental health organizations pay attention to this. If the young person you are seeking to help is not, at this time, considered to be in a protected class, this young person likely should be. If you are treating this young person for mental health challenges and the learning of that young person is being disrupted by those challenges, that young person qualifies for Section 504 protections. This is going to be the only path to get this young person some adequate protections.
  • For any other student who does not fit into one of these categories it is possible to file a complaint at the district level under Oregon’s bullying prevention statute.
    • Unfortunately, in this situation it is not possible to appeal a complaint made at the district level with the Oregon Department of Education.  Basically, students who are not protected under civil rights laws have little to no effective protection in Oregon. I have tried to encourage the Oregon state legislature to recognize and address this. This is why I encourage parents to determine whether their child qualifies as having a mental health challenge and then proceeding under Section 504.

(Note: I am using the term “parent” for anyone who is in a parenting capacity.)

Important Insight

Oregon school leaders think that they are supposed to respond to all hurtful situations under Oregon’s bullying statute. Under this statute, the only thing principals are required to do is investigate to determine whether discipline is warranted. Principals are under strong pressure not to suspend students and will only respond if there has been a significant disruption. So generally, a report to the school that your child is being bullied is responded to in this manner, “This is not bullying, so there is nothing I can do.”

If your child is (or could be) within a protected class, and is being treated badly in a serious OR persistent or pervasive manner and this is interfering with your child’s learning and ability to participate at school, and the school knows or should know, the school is required to investigate to determine whether a hostile environment exists for your child. (Not whether discipline is warranted.)

If there is interference with your child’s learning/participation, the school is required to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to stop the harassment and prevent it from recurring (more than a suspension), and remedy the harm to your child, and correct aspects of the environment that are supporting this hurtful conduct.

If your child is on an IEP or 504 Plan, the development of a plan incorporating these reasonably calculated steps must take place in an IEP or 504 TEAM meeting (with you as part of the team!). The plan should be set forth in your child’s IEP or 504 under Supplemental Aids and Supports. (Possibly also Functional Objectives.)

To verify the accuracy of of what I just stated, look here:

Stopbullying.gov Oregon statutes. Look at Question 4. The provisions of the Oregon statute focus on discipline. Look at Question 5 and click on the link referencing civil rights. That goes to the Federal Laws page. This is what the school is supposed to do if your child is within a protected class — or perceived to be in a protected class.

2014 Dear Colleague Letter. A Dear Colleague Letter is instructions to schools from USDOE. This DCL from the Office for Civil Rights directs schools that if a student with disabilities is being harassed or bullied on any basis, the school is required to address this in an IEP or 504 team meeting.

Helping Your Child Gain Resilience

Please obtain a copy of my book, Be Positively Powerful: A Guide for Teens on Achieving Resilience and Empowerment. Addressing these situations with the school will take time and be challenging. The insight in this book can help your teen child or help you help your younger child to become more resilient. This is especially important if your child is in a minority class and is more likely to face discrimination and other hurtful conduct in today’s society.

Helpful Documents

These documents will be of assistance to your understanding. These documents can help you to document what is happening and file a complaint independently. These documents can also be used by organizations that are assisting parents with young people who are being bullied or harassed. 

  • Is Your Child with Disabilities Being Bullied or Harassed?A Parent’s Guide for Advocacy. This document outlines specifically what schools are required to do if a student with disabilities, who is on an IEP or a 504 or should be on a 504, is that student is being bullied on any basis and this is interfering with their learning or participation.  
  • Documentation Guide. This document that outlines what information should be gathered to make an effective complaint and how to write that complaint.
  • Mental Health Concerns. If your child is experiencing significant mental health challenges, it may be possible to obtain a diagnosis of Specified Trauma and Stressors-Related Disorder (a form of PTSD). With such a diagnosis, or a diagnosis of any other mental health challenge, your child is considered under Section 504 to have a disability and the bullying or harassment of your child must be comprehensively addressed in a 504 Team meeting. This document can also be provided to a medical or mental health provider to increase their insight. 
  • Positive Resolutions. This document outlines what currently is not working and what schools should be doing to create positive change.

Independent Educational Evaluation Services

These services are available for parents whose child is (or should be) on an IEP or 504. To hold an effective IEP or Section 504 Team meeting the school must conduct an evaluation/investigation to support its decision-making. 

Under IDEA, a parent of a child with a disability has the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) paid for by the school district if the parent disagrees with an evaluation or reevaluation obtained by the school district. An IEE means an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of the child. 

If a parent requests an IEE at public expense, the school district must, without unnecessary delay, either ensure that an IEE is provided at public expense or initiate a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate and an additional evaluation is not necessary.

The school district must provide information to parents about where an IEE may be obtained and the school district criteria applicable for IEEs. However, the district must provide parents an opportunity to demonstrate that unique circumstances justify an IEE that does not meet the district’s criteria. In situations of bullying or discriminatory harassment, the district’s normal criteria is highly likely not to be applicable.

In order to ensure the parent’s right to an independent evaluation, it is the parent, not the district, who has the right to choose which evaluator will conduct the IEE.  

While IDEA provides for an IEE at public expense, Section 504 does not expressly do so in the text of the law. However, arguments can be made that under the law, the school must conduct an evaluation by trained personnel with insight into the underlying concerns. 

It is recommended that parents of children with disabilities who are entitled to services under Section 504 request that the district pay for an IEE. If the district refuses to pay for such services, the parent can immediately file a Section 504 complaint with the Oregon Department of Education.

  • Document that explains this process further. 
  • Template request for an IEE for a student on an IEP.
  • Template request for an IEE for a student on a 504 plan.
  • Template request to have your child placed on a 504 plan due to mental health concerns associated with the bullying/harassment and for an IEE if you think necessary. 

If you are considering retaining me for such services please write to: info@embracecivility.org.

External Information Resources

Oregon Department of Education

Complaints and Appeals. This page provides information and listing of staff who can provide assistance. These staff are very knowledgable and helpful. They are spread thin. They may be able to help achieve an informal resolution with the district. However, this resolution would not be enforceable. If you file a discriminatory harassment complaint with the district and/or a request for a comprehensive IEP or 504 Team Meeting to address these concerns, it is recommended that you send a copy of this to the appropriate staff person at ODE. This may be helpful in achieving a more rapid and effective response by the district. 

Oregon Administrative Regulations. This document is the new OARs related to filing appeals in situations of discriminatory harassment. Note the benefits of both an enforceable Settlement Agreement and Conciliation Agreement that were discussed in the video. This document also provides some interesting background information. Note on the final page that waiving complaints directly to the department is a legally sound process. This statement provides the basis for you to request that the district waive the local complaint process so that you can achieve an enforceable Settlement Agreement if this is a path you want to follow. 

Oregon School Board Association. This page provides links to the recommended policies of OSBA for school districts under Oregon bullying statute for harassment, intimidation or bullying, teen dating violence and acts of cyberbullying. As is outlined in the video, the policies for the disciplinary code and for appeals are solely based on the Oregon bullying statute and do not incorporate the requirements on schools associated with situations of discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and situations where a student with disabilities who is on an IEP or 504 Plan who is being bullied or harassed.

Note in the JFCF-AR policies for complaints, Step 2, that the only consideration is whether discipline was warranted. Assuming your district’s policy contains this provision, this is why it is important to make it clear that your complaint is based on ORS 659.850, the statute against discrimination, and should not be addressed under ORS 339.351 to 339.364.

Student Access. This is a, Oregon Department of Education document for parents regarding Section 504 protections. This is helpful for you to know the basic underlying requirements. However, this document is lacking in insight on what the responsibilities are of schools in situations where a student with disabilities is being harassed based on those disabilities or is being bullied on any basis and this is interfering with their learning. It is, unfortunately, quite probable that many school leaders and special education staff do not know they have a requirement of addressing these concerns in an IEP or 504 Team Meeting. And that the manner of addressing this must be comprehensive. See the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter below. 

Parent Rights for Special Education K-21. This is a, Oregon Department of Education document for parents regarding Individuals with Disabilities Act. This document is also lacking in insight on what the responsibilities are of educators in situations where a student with disabilities is being harassed based on those disabilities. 

United States Department of Education

These documents provide an extensive background into the civil rights requirements. Note that every document states repeatedly that in a situation of possible hostile environment where the serious, persistent, or pervasive hurtful conduct of a student or students appears to be interfering with the right of a protected class student to receive an education, the school must conduct a prompt, unbiased, and comprehensive investigation.

If a hostile environment is found, the school is required to take steps reasonably calculated to stop the harassment (more than a disciplinary action), prevent retaliation, remedy the harm to the target, and correct the hostile environment. 

If a student has disabilities and is being harassed based on those disabilities or bullied on any basis and this is interfering with the student’s learning, this situation must be addressed in an IEP or 504 Team meeting. This requires a comprehensive evaluation conducted by an educator who has received training and is knowledgable about the concerns of discriminatory harassment and the required actions to address this.  

The failure to follow these requirements is the primary reason Oregon schools are not responding effectively in situations where students are being harassed or bullied.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. Given the current administration, I am not sure how effective this will be. However, the staff who handle these complaints in the field offices have not changed, so this could be an appropriate path to consider. 

StopBullying.Gov. This is a page on the federal government’s StopBullying.Gov website about Oregon’s Bullying Statute. Note that this page on Oregon’s Bullying Statute has a question related to protected class students (5th question). Note specifically that there is a link to the page on Federal Laws with the comment: “Schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics. Find out when bullying may be a civil rights violation.” This page outlines the more comprehensive intervention requirements under civil rights laws. If a school leader tells you that the Oregon bullying statute addresses the civil rights requirements, this is a good page to suggest they read.

Dear Colleague Letter: Harassment and Bullying (2010). This is a very important Dear Colleague Letter that provides guidance to schools on the approach they need to take in situations where bullying is discriminatory discrimination. 

Dear Colleague Letter Bullying of Students With Disabilities (2013). Office for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services provides guidance for students covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). OSERS clarifying that when bullying of a student with a disability results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit under IDEA, the school must remedy the problem, regardless of whether the bullying was based on the student’s disability.

Dear Colleague Letter on Bullying of Students with Disabilities (2014). This very important document outlines how the discriminatory harassment of students with disabilities or the bullying of any student with disabilities on any basis that is interfering with the student’s right to receive an education must be addressed in a Section 504 meeting. 

Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools (2016). Note specifically from this document Page 32:

“Section 504 prohibits disability-based harassment by peers that is sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s education programs and activities (in other words, creates a hostile environment).  When a school district knows or reasonably should know of possible disability-based harassment, it must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.  If an investigation reveals that the harassment created a hostile environment, the recipient must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent the harassment from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.”  

Page 35:

“Schools also have responsibilities under Section 504’s FAPE requirements when a student with a disability is harassed or bullied on any basis (for example, bullied based on disability, or national origin, or homelessness, or appearance). This is because the bullying or harassment can result in a denial of FAPE under Section 504 and, if that occurs, it must be remedied. FAPE may be denied to a student when, for example, the effects of the bullying include adverse changes in the student’s academic performance or behavior.”

This document also references the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter that dictates that this bullying or harassment must be addressed in a 504 Team meeting. 

Checklist for a Comprehensive Approach to Addressing Harassment (2015). This is a great list of things schools and districts should be doing to prevent and respond to harassment.  

Title VI and Title IX Religious Discrimination in Schools and Colleges (2013). Explains how despite the fact that religion is not included in the civil rights statutes, the Office for Civil Rights addresses harassment based on religion. In Oregon, religion is specifically included in the statute. 

Dear Colleague Letter Prohibited Disability Harassment (2000). Lists a good set of actions schools should be taking. 

Title IX Resource Guide for Title IX Coordinators (2015). Note on page 15 this addresses sexual harassment.

Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance (2001). Note the discussion on pages vi to viii on the relationship between Title IX and the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Many times schools tell students/parents that the results of their investigation cannot be shared because of privacy. This is not accurate. Note starting on page 5 Factors Used to Evaluate Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment. Note also starting on page 15, Response to Student or Parent Reports of Harassment; Response to Direct Observation of Harassment by a Responsible Employee. This sets forth the extensive actions required to address sexual harassment. This list of required actions also apply to other protected classes. 

Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime: A Guide for Schools (1999). This is an older document. It is noted as “archived” because some of the material is no longer accurate — this is the material related to sexual orientation/identity. Other guidance on the comprehensive approach schools should be taking is very helpful. 

Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students (1994). This is an older document addressing racial harassment.