Harassment and Bullying Discussed by School Attorneys

Not surprising, bullying and harassment were among the many topics discussed last week during the School Law Practice Seminar presented in Denver by the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys.

John Borkowski, an attorney with Hogan Lovells in Washington, DC, addressed various legal and policy issues for school districts to consider around harassment, including a review of federal cases and investigations. Borkowski traced case law, citing Title IX, Title VI and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and compared them to how investigations have been handled by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

Borkowski offered four strategies for school districts to protect their students and staff both on and off their campuses.

1. Develop and publicize appropriate clear policies and procedures.

2. Train staff and students.

3. Build relationships in the community.

4. When an incident occurs, understand the law, document the facts, and make informed judgments.

School districts should remember that harassment typically includes:

• nexus to school;
• the harassing conduct is based on a protected category and is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile environment; and
• a responsible school official had sufficient knowledge and failed to act, known as deliberate indifference.

Learn more about the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys.