Today, the Department of Education issued guidance to support educators in combating bullying
in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination
laws. The guidance issued today also makes clear that while current laws enforced by the
department do not protect against harassment based on religion or sexual orientation, they do
include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic
characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and
The guidance, which comes in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to schools,
colleges and universities, explains educators' legal obligations to protect students from student-
on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and
disability harassment. The letter provides examples of harassment and illustrates how a school
should respond in each case.
The White House and Department of Education also announced next steps to address
bullying and harassment in schools. Early next year, the White House will host a conference to
raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community
leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment. This conference will build upon efforts
led by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to spark a dialogue on the
ways in which communities can come together to prevent bullying and harassment.
"We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable
part of growing up. It's not," said President Obama. "We have an obligation to ensure that our
schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn
and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of
"Bullying is a problem that shouldn't exist. No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a
school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others," said U.S. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan. "To every student who feels threatened or harassed -- for whatever
reason -- please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you.
And please know that we will protect you," Duncan continued.
"Students cannot learn if they feel threatened or harassed," said Assistant Secretary for Civil
Rights, Russlynn Ali. "We want to keep students safe and learning, and today's guidance will
help us do that."
Following the release of today's guidance, the Department plans to hold technical assistance
workshops around the country in early 2011 to help educators better understand their obligations
and the resources available to take prompt and effective steps that will end harassment and
bullying in schools and on college campuses.
The guidance issued today is just one of several efforts in the Department of Education's
comprehensive approach to end bullying. In 2009, the Department joined the Departments of
Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and the Interior to form the Obama
Administrations Inter-Agency Task Force on Bullying. In August of this year, the Obama
administration hosted the first ever National Bullying Summit and launched both the Stop
Bulling Now campaign and www.bullyinginfo.org, a national database of effective anti-bullying
For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination statutes that it enforces, please
visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/aboutocr.html. To review the "Dear Colleague"
letter, please visit: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html.
President Obama: It Gets Better
Posted by Brian Bond on October 21, 2010 at 11:30 PM EDT
Recently, several young people have taken their own lives after being bullied for being gay – or
perceived as being gay – by their peers. Their deaths are shocking and heartbreaking tragedies.
No one should have to endure relentless harassment or tormenting. No one should ever feel so
alone or desperate that they feel have nowhere to turn. We each share a responsibility to protect
our young people. And we also have an obligation to set an example of respect and kindness,
regardless of our differences.
We all have a responsibility to protect all of our children. But we also have an obligation to set
an example of respect and kindness regardless of our differences.
This is personal to me. When I was a young adult, I faced the jokes and taunting that too many of
our youth face today, and I considered suicide as a way out. But I was fortunate. One of my co-
workers recognized that I was hurting, and I soon confided in her. She cared enough to push me
to seek help. She saved my life. I will always be grateful for her compassion and support – the
same compassion and support that so many kids need today.
In the wake of these terrible tragedies, thousands of Americans have come together to share their
stories of hope and encouragement for LGBT youth who are struggling as part of the It Gets
Better Project <http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/> . Their messages are simple: no matter
how difficult or hopeless life may seem when you’re a young person who’s been tormented by
your peers or feels like you don’t fit in: life will get better.
President Obama is committed to ending bullying, harassment and discrimination in all its forms
in our schools and communities. That’s why he recorded this message.
Last year, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services joined forces with four
other departments to create a federal task force on bullying. In August 2010, the task force
staged the first-ever National Bullying Summit, bringing together 150 top state, local, civic, and
corporate leaders to begin mapping out a national plan to end bullying. The task force also
launched a new website, www.bullyinginfo.org <http://www.bullyinginfo.org/> , which brings
all the federal resources on bullying together in one place for the first time ever.
If you’re a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or you’re a parent or
teacher who knows a young person being bullied or harassed, here are a few resources that can
The Trevor Project <http://www.thetrevorproject.org/>
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGTQ youth by providing resources
and a nationwide, 24 hour hotline. If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-
BullyingInfo.org is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP)
focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers
to prevent and address bullying.
It Gets Better Project <http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/>
President Obama’s video is just one of thousands of videos submitted by people across the
country to inspire and encourage LGBT youth who are struggling. You can watch more videos
at ItGetsBetterProject.com <http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/> .
For even more information and resources visit:
* Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) <http://www.glsen.org/>
* Matthew Shepard Foundation <http://www.matthewshepard.org/>
* Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
A transcript of the President’s video is here <http://www.whitehouse.gov/it-gets-better-
Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement