Landmark Case Clarifies IDEA Protections for Bullied Special Education Students

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York recently decided that when bullying affects a special education student’s opportunity to receive an appropriate education, schools have a responsibility to address bullying, take steps to prevent it from occurring in the future, and provide appropriate special education and related services under the individual education plan (IEP). T.K. and S.K. v. New York City Department of Education. The Court explained that school districts “must investigate if the harassment is reported to have occurred. If harassment is found to have occurred, the school must take appropriate steps to prevent it in the future. These duties of a school exist even if the misconduct is covered by its anti-bullying policy, and regardless of whether the student has complained, asked the school to take action, or identified the harassment as a form of discrimination.” The decision is important because it makes clear that bullying must be addressed under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) if it affects a special education student’s opportunity to receive an appropriate education and is an issue that should be discussed in PPT meetings.

It is important to note that children who do not have disabilities are also protected from bullying by a variety of civil rights laws. If your child is being bullied at school and the school has failed to stop the bullying, you may want to contact an attorney to discuss what steps you can take to ensure that the school meets its obligations under federal and state laws.