Schools Get New Guidance on Bullying of Students With IEPs, 504 Plans

No bullying at schools.

If only that were the case. Unfortunately, it’s not. But hopefully some new guidance from the government can help to lessen how often it occurs.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that since 2009 it has received more than 2,000 complaints about bullying of students with disabilities. Many of these students have learning or thinking differences. Fortunately, there are protections for these students, according to Meghan Casey, policy research and advocacy associate for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Casey points to a recent “guidance” letter to public schools from the U.S. Department of Education. The letter goes beyond previous guidance given to school districts and educators. It says schools must address any bullying that interferes with a student’s right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). This protection applies to any student eligible for an Individual Education Program () or .

If bullying occurs, the government letter says, schools must determine if a student’s right to FAPE is impacted. This covers any bullying that prevents a child from fully participating and benefiting from their IEP or 504 plan. The letter also spells out the actions schools must take, including holding a school team meeting to address the bullying.

“It is encouraging to see the government is recognizing this as a problem,” Casey says. She points out that bullying can lead to other serious issues for kids. These include depression, higher truancy rates and higher dropout rates. “It’s also significant that schools are being directed to take action even if bullying isn’t related to a student’s disability,” she added.

If your child is being bullied at school, there are specific steps you can take to respond. For more information on how to prevent bullying in school, take a look at our suite of articles on protecting your child.

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About the author

About the author

Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for