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Harassment In Schools

Various forms of harassment are illegal under both Minnesota and U.S. federal law as a type of discrimination. Harassment based upon actual or perceived sexual orientation is specifically illegal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Harassment, including that based on sexual orientation, in our schools can prevent students from experiencing an educational environment free of intimidation and even to higher teenage suicide rates. Often, harassment based on sexual orientation can become violent because of the deep-seated prejudice against GLBT people in our society, involving beatings as well as physical and psychological degradation.

In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has issued decisions related to harassment in schools. In the case of Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the court held that a school district is liable even for harassment between students when it has actual knowledge of severe harassment but deliberately disregards the right of the student to have equal access to educational benefits. And in Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District, the court also held that districts are liable for severe harassment of students by school district personnel. The same analysis would be expected to apply under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

It is essential that school district personnel, if they have not already done so, develop policies to protect all students—including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students—and programs to educate staff and students in both the injustice and the legal consequences of harassment.