Bullying and Harassment

Bullying and Harassment February 2011

RESOLVED, That consistent with an American Bar Association August 2002 policy, the ABA urges federal agencies, legislators, school officials, and the organized bar to discourage: (1) the inappropriate referral of youth to the juvenile justice system for acts of bullying and student-on-student harassment; and (2) the inappropriate use of expulsion and out-of-school suspension for such acts.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the ABA urges lawyers and judges to work with others to address the issue of bullying — including cyberbullying and youth-to-youth sexual and physical harassment — and develop related continuing legal education, legal research, program analysis, and policy reform, including:

  1. Training lawyers and judges in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems to be alert to the signs that a child is either a victim of, or engaging in, bullying or harassment, and having that instruction address immediate services that are available and the importance of involving adults in supporting these children;
  2. Supporting funding, at the federal and state level and by private foundations and academic institutions, of innovative programs, research and evaluation that address the prevention of and responses to these acts, including efforts that will enhance and study use of evidence-based and culturally and linguistically competent approaches;
  3. Supporting requirements for state and local educational agencies and child-serving institutions to adopt anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies that include training, data collection and reporting, notice, and institutional protections, particularly for those children at risk of these acts due to actual or perceived characteristics such as race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity;
  4. Urging law enforcement agencies to fully participate in the FBI’s hate crime data collection program, which, under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, now includes a requirement for the Justice Department to report in the aggregate on hate crimes committed by and against juveniles;
  5. Encouraging Internet Service Providers and social networking platforms to adopt Terms of Service that define prohibited cyberbullying and cyberhate, provision of a readily identifiable and monitored address for reporting this improper activity, and a commitment that they will review complaints in a timely manner;
  6. Urging expansion of federal agency collaborative activities to better inform and improve best practices, to enhance school safety data collection by the states, and to disseminate the results to school personnel, parents and families;
  7. Supporting amendments of appropriate federal legislation related to children and youth to better address these issues, including anti-bias education and prevention, as well as bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment education, policies, training, social and emotional learning, and school-wide educational behavior support and early intervention initiatives; and
  8. Supporting comprehensive implementation, outreach, and education to promote the October 26, 2010 U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights “Dear Colleague” letter on bullying and harassment – including encouragement of more aggressive federal use of existing federal and state civil rights protection authority, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, that is coordinated with school, child welfare, and juvenile justice agencies, to help address these issues.

These represent only those ABA Policy Resolutions in which the Commission on Youth at Risk was the principal sponsor.