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Federal Court Recognizes Bullying Claim under IDEA

May 13, 2011

On April 26, 2011, a federal district court in New York ruled that a student had stated a valid claim under the IDEA when she alleged that she had been denied FAPE due to unrelenting peer bullying and harassment. In an extensive decision, which included substantial discussion of “Bullying in America,” the district court concluded that the IDEA, like Title IX and Section 504, “place upon schools the affirmative duty to address bullying and harassment.” Specifically, the court articulated that “[w]hen responding to bullying incidents, which may affect the opportunities of a special education student to obtain an appropriate education, a school must take prompt remedial action. It must investigate if the harassment is reported to have occurred. If harassment is found. . . the school must take appropriate steps to prevent it in the future. . . . even if the misconduct is covered by its anti-bullying policy . . . .” In this case, the parents had alleged that the district’s failure to respond to repeated complaints of physical, verbal and psychological bullying by peers resulted in a denial of FAPE for their 12-year-old daughter, initially diagnosed as autistic and later identified as a student with a learning disability. The parents had unilaterally placed the student in a private school and filed for hearing, seeking reimbursement for their private school placement. See T.K. v. New York City Dep’t of Education, No. 10-752 (E.D. N.Y. Apr. 26, 2011).

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