“We’re the federal government, and we’re here to help investigate you.”
The Education and Justice Departments are now taking on investigatory and prosecutorial roles against school districts on bullying and harassment cases. Historically their roles have centered on research, along with funding prevention and intervention programs on these issues. The U.S. Department of Education and its Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed last week it would be “vigorously” investigating local school districts on complaints against the districts related to bullying and harassment. The Department’s statement followed up on presentations made by Education Department officials at their “bullying summit” two weeks ago where they announced they would be “proactively investigating” schools on bullying complaints. Last week the Justice Department entered the fray by filing an “amicus curiae” or “friend of the court” motion in a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Indian River Central School District in New York. The case involves claims of discrimination (based on sex) by the school district in connection with harassment, physical assaults, and threats against a gay former student. The suit reportedly claims the district refused to help him and refused to allow him to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at the high school. According to the news report, the lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal, a national organization that defends the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.