Preventing and Responding to Discriminatory Behavior: Schools and Campuses

Today, the United States and the broader international community face a range of difficult issues and concerns as our global population becomes increasingly connected and diverse. Leaders at home and abroad are challenged to think critically and strategically about how best to address and protect the rights of all people, especially those from historically underrepresented groups. Individuals across the nation have both the opportunity and responsibility to create environments that uphold our shared values of inclusivity and tolerance of others.

The U.S. Department of Education is committed to maintaining safe, respectful and nondiscriminatory environments, particularly in schools and learning environments. It is critical for school and district leaders to feel supported and prepared to handle incidents and behaviors that may disrupt the emotional and physical safety of all students and staff. The following list of resources provides guidance and support for teachers and school leaders who wish to implement strategies that ensure students are not subjected to discrimination or harassment based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or national origin.  

Policies and Guidance

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance.
  •  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

The Bullying, Harassment, & Civil Rights Video helps schools, parents, and others who interact with children understand the differences between harassment and bullying, and their legal obligations with respect to both. 

Resources for Specific Populations

The following resources are designed to address the needs of populations that are vulnerable to actual or threatened instances of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

LGBTQI students

Religious minorities

  • Tanenbaum Combating Religious Prejudice Education Workshops & Training provides interactive training for educators various of topics related to teaching students concrete skills for living in a diverse, pluralistic, and democratic society. The training content is both for elementary and secondary school educators.
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations has developed a number of resources to address Islamophobia in schools and communities.
    • Mislabeled: The Impact of School Bullying and Discrimination on California Muslim Students provides context on the socio-political climate in which American Muslims attend school. Specifically, it discusses how Islamophobia, the fear or hatred of Islam and Muslims, in larger society filters into the school environment and manifests as teacher discrimination and student bullying.
    • Bullying Prevention Guide features a bullying prevention guide for schools, focusing on the prevalence of bullying in general and specifically among Muslim students and bullying occurring in Muslim schools.
  • Combatting Religious Discrimination Today describes the findings from “Combating Religious Discrimination Today,” a community engagement initiative designed to promote religious freedom and challenge religious discrimination.

Foreign-born students

  • The Migration Policy Institute has published the Educational, Psychological and Social Impact of Discrimination on the Immigrant Child  focusing on incidents of direct discrimination, as perceived and noticed by the child—incidents with identifiable educational, psychological, physical, and social repercussions. The report presents recommendations on how to prevent these negative interactions, through anti-bullying policies, communicating effectively with immigrant families, and carefully evaluating services targeting immigrant children.

Bullying Prevention for Elementary and Secondary Schools

Violence Prevention for Elementary and Secondary Schools

Bullying Prevention for Postsecondary Campuses

  • The Young Adults webpage on the Website defines bullying as it relates to young adults, describes how young adults can get help, and provides additional resources.
  • Bullying and Cyberbullying at Colleges and Universities contains bullying prevention resources and materials. The document discusses the various forms of bullying – verbal (name-calling, teasing), social (spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships), physical (hitting, punching, shoving), and cyberbullying (using the Internet, mobile telephones, or other digital technologies to harm others) – and describes preventative interventions.

Violence Prevention for Postsecondary Campuses