A Sikh middle school student reported incidents of physical and verbal bullying based upon his religion and national origin to DeKalb County School District ("DCSD") officials for years. When the incidents didn't stop, the student sought counsel from the Sikh Coalition. In October 2012, the Sikh ...
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A Sikh middle school student reported incidents of physical and verbal bullying based upon his religion and national origin to DeKalb County School District ("DCSD") officials for years. When the incidents didn't stop, the student sought counsel from the Sikh Coalition. In October 2012, the Sikh Coalition began representing the student, placed DCSD on notice of ongoing harassment, and demanded safety plans and effective remedial measures to diminish the hostile educational environment, including anti-harassment training. After repeated inaction from DCSD, counsel for the Sikh Coalition filed complaints with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division ("DOJ") alleging violations of federal law. With authority to investigate and resolve complaints of religious and national origin harassment through its enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and following an inquiry into the student-specific complaints, DOJ notified DCSD of its concerns that it had failed to respond promptly and appropriately to the Sikh Coalition's allegations of harassment. DOJ also found that the disciplinary measures the district did take had not been effective in ending the harassment, and that the student feared continued harassment.
DCSD and DOJ reached a settlement agreement on May 7, 2013, resolving DOJ's investigation into the student-specific allegations of religious and national origin harassment. The settlement agreement requires DCSD to work with a consultant to develop and implement anti-harassment training for students and faculty at the student's middle and high school, including but not limited to a discussion on the root causes of religious and national origin harassment and harms, including post-9/11 backlash and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes impacting the Sikh, Muslim, Arab-American, and South Asian communities; immediately implement a safety plan to ensure that the student is safe at school and that, should incidents of harassment occur, the district responds quickly and effectively; and meet with the student, his family, and administrators from his middle school and the high school where he will enroll, to identify key school personnel who can support the student should any future incidents of harassment occur. The agreement is to remain in effect until the end of the 2014-2015 school year. At that time, if DOJ has no outstanding concerns regarding DCSD's compliance with it, it will be considered terminated.
Also on May 7, 2013, DOJ announced that it had opened a separate and ongoing inquiry into whether DCSD's anti-harassment policies meet federal standards, whether its policies are consistently implemented, and whether employees are adequately trained to implement those policies. Heather Turner - 06/04/2014