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NEA on the Department’s Guidance to Protect Students with Disabilities

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia: By working together we can create safe, bully-free environments for all students

WASHINGTON - October 23, 2014 -

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a ”Dear Colleague” letter that outlined guidance to help protect students with disabilities from bullying in our schools. The guidance underscored the need for schools to fully understand their legal obligations to address and prevent disability discrimination. Below is a statement from NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:

“Schools should be safe havens for all students—places where students can grow, learn and realize their full potential. NEA is pleased to see the leadership the Department of Education is showing in working to eradicate bullying in our schools.

“Students with disabilities are the most bullied group in our schools today. About 60 percent of these students are bullied regularly, compared with 25 percent of all students. This is unacceptable. It is a social justice issue because bullying compromises students’ basic right to learn and grow in a safe environment.

“Parents, families, and educators are on the same team. We need to continue to foster the active involvement of teachers, administrators, education support professionals, parents and the larger community in a whole school initiative to eliminate bullying and harassment. It is our shared responsibility to make sure that every child feels safe at school. The good news is by working together, we can create safe, bully-free environments for all students.

“It is the mission of the NEA to make every public school as good as the best public school and ensure that the gifts and talents of each and every child are given a chance to flourish.”

NEA provides guidance to caring adults in schools and communities nationwide who are willing to stand up and pledge to help bullied students. To help these concerned adults, NEA launched the “NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me” campaign, which connects bullied students with a caring adult—one on one. These caring adults agree to listen carefully to the bullied student who comes to them and take action to stop the bullying.

Information on “NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me” campaign and additional resources on how to combat bullying can be found at

Read one student’s story at

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 262-0589,