In August 2013, the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)/ the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) released a “Dear Colleague” letter to address bullying of all students in schools. This letter is available in full at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/bullyingdcl-8-20-13.pdf. However, below I will summarize what are, in my opinion, the most important parts for educators. In addition, the “Enclosure”attached with this letter, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/bullyingdcl-8-20-13.pdf, is a great resource regarding EBIs related to bullying, as it is descriptive and straight from the government.
Important takeaways from the “Dear Colleague” Letter:
- Bullying is not an “ordinary part of growing up” and cannot be tolerated, it must be addressed immediately.
- Bullying is associated with a wide variety of negative outcomes, including low academic achievement, higher truancy rates, poor relationships, and depression.
- Students with disabilities are more likely to be a target of bullying
- Any bullying of a student with a disability that affects their FAPE must be remedied, regardless of if it is due to their disability or not. Any changes to their placement must be made in accordance with their IEP team.
- If the student doing the bullying is an individual on an IEP, the team must meet to determine if additional supports or environmental changes are needed.
- Consider re-evaluating your district policies if needed.
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach/solution to bullying, but it is part of a system-wide multi-tiered framework, including a process of setting clear expectations for behavior and supporting the positives, as well as data-based decision making.
- School bullying prevention programs have a large body of evidence.
- The PBIS framework is specifically mentioned as a recommended practice
- The other recommendations described in this document are:
- Teaching appropriate behaviors and how to respond to bullying
- Active adult supervision
- Ongoing and sustained student and staff training
- Clear policies and procedures
- Monitoring and tracking of bullying
- Parent notification
- Addressing ongoing concerns
- Resources are also listed at the end of this document