Protecting Special Needs Students from Bullying in Tennessee Schools

Tennessee special education lawyers help ensure harassment-free classrooms in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Jackson

Bullying or harassment sufficiently pervasive or severe may violate a student’s rights under both Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. IDEA provides the same complaint procedures and due process protections as the older legislation, but Section 504 and Title II of the ADA also allow individuals to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The remedies for Title II of the ADA or Section 504 can be costly, but a 504 violation also carries with it the risk of losing federal funds.

If you are the parent or guardian of a special needs child or young adult and disability-based harassment is interfering with his or her education, you should seek the counsel of a Tennessee special education attorney at Gilbert Russell McWherter Scott Bobbitt PLC. The Gilbert Firm’s record of successful advocacy for special needs education is unparalleled.

Your rights under the law

Much attention is paid to the more recent Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for its features of parental involvement, Individualized Education Plans (IEP), and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). However, two other laws — Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) — offer greater protection from disability-motivated bullying or harassment at school. Title II covers all activities of state and local governments and requires that they provide the disabled with an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities, including public education. Section 504 covers all schools, school districts, and colleges and universities that receive federal funds, and prohibits harassment that creates a hostile environment. Both laws employ the same broad, inclusive definition of “disability.”

When does harassment create a hostile or offensive environment?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the law does not prohibit “simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious.” Harassment that creates a hostile or offensive environment is characterized as frequent or severe. It can be non-violent or violent. It may include humiliating verbal acts such as name-calling, or non-verbal acts such as graphic or written statements. It may even include conduct that is physically threatening to a disabled person. Because IDEA promotes the integration of the disabled into the ordinary classroom, much of this kind of harassment is likely to come from non-disabled students too emotionally immature to appreciate the effects of their behavior. Be that as it may, it remains the responsibility of the school district to develop the educational and support programs that can prevent harassment of special needs students.

Let a compassionate Tennessee lawyer defend your special needs child’s right to a harassment-free school environment

The Gilbert Firm has built a solid reputation of success in special education law. Our can represent your child in federal court, in a Title II or Section 504 case if need be. If you believe that severe, persistent, disability-based harassment is depriving your special needs child of his or her educational rights, we want to hear from you. Please call 888.354.FIRM (3476) to discuss your complaint with an experienced Tennessee special education lawyer, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our lawyers serve clients across Tennessee form offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Jackson.