Today the Departments of Justice and Education announced an important settlement with a California school district, resolving an investigation under federal civil rights law into the harassment of a gay middle school student based on his nonconformity with gender stereotypes. That student, Seth Walsh, tragically committed suicide in September 2010, at the age of 13. The Departments’ investigation, which stemmed from a complaint received in October 2010, found that the school district did not adequately investigate or otherwise respond to the harassment that Walsh suffered for more than two school years, which included ongoing and escalating verbal, physical and sexual harassment by other students at the school based on Walsh’s nonconformity with gender stereotypes. Under the settlement, the district will take a variety of steps to prevent sexual and gender-based harassment at all of its schools, to respond appropriately to harassment that occurs, and to eliminate the hostile environment resulting from harassment.
As President Obama has said:
We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage – that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. And to every young person out there you need to know that if you’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help.
Read more about today’s settlement and learn more about the enforcement of federal civil rights laws by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Right’s.
If you’re a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or you’re a parent or teacher who knows a young person being bullied or harassed, a few resources that can help you are available here.
Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement.