The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement agreement with the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township, Ind., to prevent and respond to peer on peer harassment in schools.
The agreement resolves the department’s review of the district’s policies and practices related to harassment and bullying, which was initiated in June 2011 after reports of possible racial harassment at a district school. Under the agreement, the district will work closely with the Great Lakes Equity Center, a federally funded resource center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, to take a number of steps to prevent and address harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion and disability, and to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.
Among other things, the district will: form a district-wide anti-harassment task force, which will review and revise the district’s policies and procedures related to harassment, bullying and discipline; establish a cohesive process for receiving, investigating and monitoring complaints of harassment and bullying, enabling the district to track repeated incidents involving individual students or groups targeted for their membership in a protected class; and provide training, professional development and school climate assessments for both students and staff at two of the district’s schools.
“This agreement provides a template for school districts throughout Indiana and across the country in establishing an across the board strategy for preventing and addressing harassment and bullying,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the district for taking affirmative steps to foster a safe and inclusive climate for learning.”
Throughout the country, school districts are expanding efforts to prevent and respond to bullying. Student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger the school district’s obligations to combat discrimination and harassment under one or more of the federal civil rights laws. Today’s agreement will provide a roadmap for districts working to ensure that their critical bullying prevention efforts are consistent with their obligations under federal law, including Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex, in public schools.
The enforcement of Title IV is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt .