(KMOV) -- The U.S. Department of Education issued a letter to schools on Tuesday, saying if schools fail to address certain bullying cases, the schools may violate anti-discrimination laws.
Read the letter here: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.pdf
Federal dollars may be at stake for schools that don't consider the list of bullying and harassment guidelines, highlighted in the letter.
The letter explains the legal obligations schools and universities have to protect students from racial, natural origin harassment, sexual harassment, and disability harassment. The Department of Education also makes it clear that gay, lesbian and bisexual students are protected because bullying of those groups may constitute sex discrimination.
Area school districts have bullying programs in place. Parkway Schools have initiatives that include parents, students, and teachers.
"We know a lot of bullying that happens, happens outside of school. It doesn't even happen inside our school buildings and with our school equipment, books, computers. So, we're also faced with that," said Julie Harrison, the coordinator for counseling at Parkway.
Harrison said schools have to reach out and educate parents to recognize signs of bullying and the forms it can take, especially on the internet. Students can launch attacks on social networking sights and the insults can quickly spread and escalate a conflict.
Two weeks ago, we told you about an attack on a 16-year-old girl in Hazelwood. Cusandra Jones says the boy arrested in the attack is a classmate who has bullied her daughter and her boyfriend in the past. Jones says her daughter didn't tell her about the previous harassment. She believes her daughter didn't anticipate the situation turning violent.
Jones added, "I don't think a lot of kids feel safe going to school and telling someone in charge."
Jones said the assault has affected her entire family. She has missed work to stay home with her daughter.
The family has set up a fund at Regions Bank for Paige Willis to help with expenses.