Bullying is a serious issue for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their peers. This information sheet will provide the relevant Arkansas and federal laws on bullying; a sample letter reporting an incident of bullying; and resources for more information.
Bullying can have a profound impact on students with disabilities. Bullying leads to short and long term side effects. Bullying causes short term side effects like anger, depression, anxiousness, reduced appetite, lower grades, suicidal thoughts and feelings. Victims of bullying also suffer long lasting side effects like lower self-esteem, interpersonal difficulties, and difficulties in socializing.
Preventing and Responding to Bullying
Bullying can often be prevented with the appropriate policies and implementation. When a student is bullied, it is up to school employees and parents to report and investigate bullying incidents to make sure students with disabilities are learning in a safe and healthy environment.
Arkansas’ Anti-bullying Law
Arkansas’s anti-bullying law states that “every public school student in this state has the right to receive his or her public education in a public school educational environment that is reasonable free from substantial intimidation, harassment, or harm or threat of harm by another student.”
Bullying as defined under Arkansas law:
- intentional harassment, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, defamation, or threat or
incitement of violence by a student against another student or public school employee
- by written, verbal, electronic or physical acts
- that may address an attribute of other student, public school employee or person with whom the other student or employee is associated and
- that causes physical harm or damage to property
- that causes substantial interference with a student’s education or with a public school employee’s role in education
- that causes a hostile educational environment
- that causes a substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school or educational environment.
The Arkansas anti-bullying law requires that the school board of every school district shall adopt policies to prevent bullying. These policies, among other things, must:
- define conduct that constitutes bullying;
- prohibit bullying on school property, at school-sponsored activities and on school buses;
- state the consequences of engaging in bullying behavior
- require school employees to report incidents of bullying to the school principal
- The school must post information about bullying in every classroom, cafeteria, restroom, gym, auditorium, and school bus
- The school must give copies of the bullying policy to parents, students, school volunteers, and employees.
The Arkansas anti-bullying law can be found at:
Arkansas School Districts’ Policies
The Cabot and Little Rock School Districts’ anti-bullying policies are examples of anti-bullying policies. Those policies can be located at:
You can find your school’s contact person for anti-bullying policies at the ADE website:
You can also write or call the ADE at:
Arkansas Department of Education
Four Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201
For additional help with special education issues, you can also contact the ADE Special Education Compliance Officer, Ben Brockert, at:
1401 West Capitol Avenue, Suite 450, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Steps You Can Take
If you suspect your child with a disability is having issues with bullying in school, you should notify your child’s school immediately and request a copy of your school district’s anti-bullying policy. When a student experiences bullying at school, it is important for the student to report the conduct to responsible adults, including parents, and for parents to provide written notice to the school describing the acts of bullying. A sample letter for reporting bullying can be found here.
Additional Steps You Can Take
If you suspect that your child has been bullied and the school refuses to take action because of your child’s disability, you may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). OCR investigates complaints alleging discrimination based on disability, race, gender, age, or national origin.
The person or organization filing the complaint does not have to be a victim of the discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group.
The complaint must be filed within 180 days of the last act of discrimination. OCR will grant extensions for filing when good cause shown is proven for the filing delay.
Before filing a complaint with OCR, you may want to find out about the school or ADE’s grievance process and use that process to have the complaint resolved. However, it is not required by law to use the grievance process before filing an OCR complaint. If you use an institutional grievance process and also file the OCR complaint, the complaint must be filed within 60 days after completion of the grievance process.
You can file a complaint by:
Mail or Fax: Complainants may mail or fax a letter or use the OCR’s Discrimination Complaint Form available from one of OCR’s enforcement offices. In your correspondence, please include:
- Your name, address and, if possible (although not required), a telephone number where you may be reached during business hours;
- Information about the person(s) or class of persons injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s) (names of the injured person(s) are not required);
- The name and location of the institution that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s); and
- A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in sufficient detail to enable OCR to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the alleged discrimination (disability).
You may file a complaint using the following e-mail address:
You may also file a complaint with OCR using the OCR’s electronic complaint form at the following website:
Special Education and Bullying
If your child has an IEP, you may want to request an IEP meeting which provides you another opportunity to speak with school staff about your concerns regarding bullying and its impact on your child’s education. A child who is a victim of bullying may need a change of placement, counseling as a related service, or other intervention that can be addressed by an IEP team. However, be careful not to further punish the child by agreeing to a change of placement that may not meet his educational needs. The United States Department of Education has issued helpful guidance on addressing bullying of students with disabilities. That guidance can be found at:
If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring.
Educate yourself and your children about bullying and bullying prevention. Self-advocacy is the best tool to combat bullying. Like many other important life skills, self-advocacy is a critical tool any child needs in order to achieve goals, increase self-sufficiency, and become a successful young adult.
There are many sources for good information for parents of students with disabilities and students with disabilities. A few helpful articles include:
- Arkansas Department of Education Bullying and Cyber-bullying Resources
- Bullying and Youth with Disabilities and Special Health Needs
- Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities: Top 10 facts parents, educators, and students need to know
- Pacer Center Action Info Sheets: Help Your Child Recognize Signs of Bullying
- Wrightslaw: Bullying & Harassment
- American Psychological Association on Bullying
- SAMSHA’s KnowBullying App