Office for Civil Rights
Annual Report to Congress FY 2004

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Encouraging Safe Schools

Harassment could deny a student the right to an education free of discrimination and could threaten a student's physical or emotional well-being, influence how well a student does in school and make it difficult for a student to achieve his or her career goals. Also, in cases where harassment is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it interferes with benefits protected by law, the courts have made it clear that such harassment is illegal and requires recipients to take effective action to stop harassment and prevent its recurrence.

Racial Harassment

OCR found that a school district failed to take appropriate action when notified of incidents of racial harassment. These incidents included a racially motivated fight involving 15 students; racially derogatory remarks directed at African American students; and a white student calling a Pakistani student a “terrorist.” The district agreed to revise and disseminate its grievance procedures and conduct training on recognizing harassment and investigating allegations of racial harassment.

“And our country must abandon all the habits of racism because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.”

President George W. Bush
Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 2005

Sexual Harassment

OCR received a complaint that a school district did not take prompt and effective action when notified that a student was sexually harassed by a teacher. Following OCR's investigation, the district agreed to reimburse the family for counseling the student has received to assist in overcoming any effects of sexual harassment and to cover co-payment fees if additional counseling is required. The teacher was disciplined and required to take training on sexual harassment. The student also will be allowed to take a class normally taught by the teacher as an independent study assignment with another teacher.

Disability Harassment

In another OCR complaint resolution, a mother withdrew her son from classes because she felt the school was not trying to prevent harassment directed at him for being disabled. As a result of assurances from the district that it would monitor the situation, the student agreed to return to the school.

Post-September 11 Harassment

OCR continued efforts to assist communities in avoiding incidents of harassment and violence aimed at students, teachers or other persons perceived to be Arab Americans or of Middle Eastern or South Asian origin. For example, one of the enforcement offices worked closely with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and was recognized by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national Sikh civil rights organization, for its outreach activities.

Promoting Safe Schools

OCR participated in several state initiatives aimed at preventing harassment, intimidation and bullying in the schools. In partnership with the Washington State Office of Public Instruction, OCR delivered eight presentations throughout the state on identifying strategies to promote harassment-free school environments. The sessions were widely attended by school district Title IX coordinators, school counselors, principals and other administrative staff seeking information to promote safe schools.

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Last Modified: 11/01/2007