National Center for Youth Law

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Standing Up to Bullies

Together with key partners, the National Center for Youth Law has launched a campaign to ensure school districts protect vulnerable students from harassment, bullying and intimidation.

The unprecedented racism, sexism and xenophobia that emanated from the 2016 Trump campaign sent a powerful signal across the nation: it was once again okay to publicly bully, harass and intimidate vulnerable populations. Not only did adults hear the signal, young people did too. In the months leading up to the election and in the time since, there has been a significant rise in the number of students targeted because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Before the election we received reports of students telling Latino and Muslim students they will be deported or killed if Trump wins. Since the election we have received reports of male students threatening to grab female students by their genitals.

Apart from the immediate trauma of these incidents, research indicates that students who are bullied have trouble focusing in school and are more likely to become truant and dropout. Bullying not only impacts those students directly targeted, it creates an environment in which all students feel unsafe. While many schools have responded quickly and appropriately, instituting policies and practices that ensure student dignity is protected and valued, a relatively small number of school districts have turned a blind eye or even been complicit.

All students deserve to feel safe and respected at school. Through this project we will provide advocacy to harassed students who attend school districts that are not doing enough to address the worsening school climate and explosion of campus based harassment and bullying based on race, religion, immigration status, gender and sexual identity that accompanied the campaign and election of Donald Trump.

We have made significant progress to date, establishing partnerships with the American Civil Liberties Union, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, Stand for Children, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Together with these organizations we are establishing the infrastructure to receive complaints, support students and families in identifying advocacy strategies, and to support local attorneys filing cases against school districts that fail to address harassment and bullying. NCYL has assembled a library of model policies and practices for schools to implement to address this issue as well as advocacy tools for students and families. NCYL remains committed to litigating when school districts fail to stop harassment and bullying until all students are safe in school.

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