School Should Have Been Proactive to Protect Student with Cognitive Disabilities From Name-calling

The Office for Civil Rights determined that the fact that a student with cognitive disabilities never actually filed a  written complaint against schoolmates who regularly called him “retard”, “stupid”,  and “moron” did not excuse the district’s failure to investigate those incidents as violations of 504. (Williamston(MI) Community Schools, 111 LRP 1843  (OCR July 26, 2010).  [Readers the use of the “R” word is offensive, but I feel it is important to report it here in order to give an accurate picture of the harassment the student suffered and the school ignored].

The student reported the incidents of name-calling to his guidance counselor each week, but the counselor did not refer them for investigation as harassment or bullying. Instead, the counselor tried to teach the student the social skills needed to respond to bullying.Moreover, general and special education teachers who were aware of the name-calling also failed to refer the incidents for investigation because they mistakenly believed they needed a complaint in order to take action.

During its investigation OCR found that throughout his 7th Grade year, the student told his counselor that a group of students called him names. One of the name-calling students also told the student with a disability that he was “going to beat him up” and teased him about his “rubber room”. The name calling continued throughout the student’s 8th Grade year until a 504 Complaint was filed with OCR.

Section 504 and Title II of the ADA prohibit disability harassment. Disability harassment includes intimidation or abusive behavior directed towards a student that is based on disability and that creates a hostile environment by interfering with the student’s participation in, or receiving the benefits of, the school district’s educational program. Here OCR determined that the district was aware that this student was being harassed but took no action to prevent future incidents of harassment or to address the effects of name-calling on the student. The school district had an obligation to investigate the name-calling incidents even though the student did not formally file a complaint. Thus, OCR determined the district violated Section 504.

The district entered a Resolution Agreement with OCR to resolve the complaint. The Resolution Agreement required that the district train its staff in disability harassment and create a centralized system for  record-keeping regarding complaints. Moreover, the district was required to compensate the student for the educational services the student missed because of the harassment and the emotional harm to the student. Thus, the district was required to determine what educational services the student missed as a result of the disability harassment, determine a method to quantify those missed services, and a method to determine and deliver compensatory services for the student. Finally, the district was required to determine what current emotional impact resulted from the harassment, a method for quantifying the emotional impact,and a method to determine and deliver compensatory services to remedy the emotional impact of the disability harassment.

New Preventing Litigation in Special Education WORKBOOK available

 Readers, many of you may be familiar with my book The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law.  I’m proud to announce that a new book is now available to assist parents and educators in understanding special education law.

Preventing Litigation in Special Education WORKBOOK is a supplement to the award-winning book, The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law. This WORKBOOK combines practical information on special education law with actual case examples that are presented in a concise story format.

The authors of the WORKBOOK are Dr. Jacque Phillips, an experienced special education teacher and recently licensed attorney and myself. I am the author of The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law and I have more than thirty-three years experience in special education and disability law. Jacque and I have joined forces to develop a WORKBOOK to help parents and teachers predict the likely outcome of case examples so that parents and school districts can avoid unnecessary legal entanglements in special education. 

The WORKBOOK gives readers understandable tools to help overcome disagreements and keep the focus on the student’s success in school. 

The Preventing Litigation in Special Education WORKBOOK can be purchased for $19.95. The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law is available for $24.95, BUT both books can be purchased together for only $35.00. Preventing Litigation in Special Education Workbook is NOW available. To order please go to The Legal Center’s Publications Division or call at 1-800-288-1376.  

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 14 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 85 posts.

The busiest day of the year was December 15th with 100 views. The most popular post that day was Schools Must Proactively Provide Evaluations Under Section 504 and the ADA.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for idea confidentiality, idea and confidentiality, confidentiality in schools, randy chapman, and idea and private schools.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Schools Must Proactively Provide Evaluations Under Section 504 and the ADA December 2010


Keeping it on the down low: The IDEA, School Records, and Confidentiality May 2008
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Section 504, School Field Trips, and Students with Disabilities July 2008


Discipline and Disability: Determining When a Child’s Misbehavior in School is Related to Their Disability February 2009


Ten Tips to Parents to Improve Participation in IEP Meetings November 2007


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