Bullying and Harassment


Federal and state laws, as well as local school policies exist to protect students from bullying and harassment. Each school district is required, by law, to have policies and practices in place as well as designated individuals to handle complaints. There are two major legislative acts, and a key federal law that are relevant:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal assistance."
  • Directory of CT Title IX/Equity Coordinators

Your Right to Form a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)

  • Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar student-initiated groups addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender (LGBT)  issues can play an important role in promoting safer schools and creating more welcoming learning environments. Nationwide, students are forming these groups in part to combat bullying and harassment of LGBT students and to promote understanding and respect in the school community. Although the efforts of these groups focus primarily on the needs of LGBT students, students who have LGBT family members and friends, and students who are perceived to be LGBT, messages of respect, tolerance, and inclusion benefit all our students. By encouraging dialogue and providing supportive resources, these groups can help make schools safe and affirming environments for everyone.

On October 26, 2010 the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights issued a very significant "Dear Colleague" letter. This letter emphasized "that some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal antidiscrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)... by limiting its response to a specific application of its anti-bullying disciplinary policy, a school may fail to properly consider whether the student misconduct also results in discriminatory harassment."

The letter responds to recent, high-profile instances of bullying and harassment that led to student suicides and OCR’s year-long review of federal antidiscrimination statutes, regulations, and case law. The letter warns that school districts that fail to appropriately identify, thwart, and remedy bullying and harassment risk violating federal civil rights laws and losing federal funds. The full text of this letter, along with a fact sheet can be found here.

The Letter clarifies that bullying is form of harassment when based on protected characteristic. Protections exist under Title IX and anti-gay harassment is often covered by Title IX.