Disability harassment is a form of discrimination prohibited by Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Students cannot learn in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, or ridicule. Each school has a legal obligation to prevent and respond to disability harassment. Your child’s school should have a clear policy that states bullying is unacceptable and violates federal law, as well as have written action and grievance procedures.
In order to meet the legal standard of harassment, the U.S. Department of Education specifies that it must be identified as “intimidation or abusive behavior towards a student with a disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student’s participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution’s program.” The harassment must be severe enough to interfere with your child being able to benefit from the Free and Appropriate Education that he is legally entitled to. Typical teasing common to most children does not meet the standard.
Examples of a hostile environment would include a child who is bullied and pretends to be sick so he can avoid school, a student who stops using his laptop in class as an accommodation tool because the teacher criticizes her in front of her classmates, or a student who is repeatedly called names in class by his peers, resulting in outbursts that stop him from being able to participate in classroom lessons.
If your child is being harassed by either students or school personnel, write to her school and request an investigation and that steps be taken to prevent any further harassment. If your school fails to comply, you have the right to file a complaint with your local school board under due process.