Shooting off a letter to thousands of American school districts (read: the abyss), the Department of Education reminded America’s educators that ignoring bullying — even the anti-LGBT kind — “could” put them in jeopardy of violating anti-discrimination laws. Basically, Title IX isn’t just for sports, yo.
Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, said the department was responding to what it senses is a growing problem. The Office for Civil Rights received 800 complaints alleging harassment in the last fiscal year, and reports from the field indicate an increase in harassment of certain groups, including gays, lesbians, and Muslims.
This is actually not a wholly new development for the Obama administration. The Department of Justice’s revamped Civil Rights Division as recently as January got involved in anti-LGBT bullying by involving itself in a case in New York involving a 15-year-old boy bullied by classmates. DoJ’s argument: Title IX, which does not specifically address sexual orientation discrimination, does prohibit sex discrimination. And because anti-gay bullying is “partly based on the target’s actual or perceived sexual orientation,” schools are legally required to intervene to fix the problem, according to the letter.
Or else they face a loss of federal funding dollars, which would all but collapse most schools. It’s too early to tell whether the government would make good on those threats, and how many second chances they’ll let school districts have before enforcing any punishment. That, and you can be sure local anti-gay politicians will raise hell about Obama Inc. being anti-school and pro-gay. Especially in election years.
Yet: It’s a welcome move from Team Obama, which so far has reacted the past months’ bullycides with an It Gets Better video and little else. Is this a sign that Kevin Jennings, Obama’s gay safe schools czar, is actually not sitting on his hands? [AP]