OSERS Issues Guidance on Preventing and Addressing Bullying of Students with Disabilities

It is important that all students, including students with disabilities, are engaged in a positive, safe, and nurturing school environment in which they can learn, develop and participate.  To that end, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter that provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities to address bullying of students with disabilities.

Under IDEA, States and school districts are obligated to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.  The guidance in the Dear Colleague letter specifically states that bullying of a student with disabilities, regardless of whether or not the bullying is related to the student’s disability, is considered a denial of FAPE if it results in the student not getting meaningful educational benefit.

The release of the OSERS guidance coincides with the start of the school year so that schools will be equipped with the tools to prevent bullying.   There is an enclosure to OSERS’ letter, “Effective Evidence-based Practices for Preventing and Addressing Bullying,” that offers practices that can be used as part of any bullying prevention and intervention program.  OSERS is asking states and schools to reevaluate their policies and practices ensuring that problematic behaviors, including bullying, are addressed.  Every effort should be made to structure school environments to provide supports to students and staff so that bullying does not occur.

The Dear Colleague Letter and enclosure, “Effective Evidence-based Practices for Preventing and Addressing Bullying,” can be accessed at:

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/index.html#bullyingdcl-8-20-13.