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Commentary: Sexual Harassment Left Behind: What the "bullying" framework is doing to the civil ri...

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Research & Action Report, Fall/Winter 2010

by Nan Stein, Ed.D.

On October 26, 2010, as this commentary went to press, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” to schools that clarifies the relationship between bullying and discriminating harassment under civil rights laws: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html.

The recent tragic cases of Phoebe Prince and Carl Wal ker -Hoover , two Massachusetts students who took their own lives after being allegedly bullied by their peers, force us to look carefully at the ways in which school personnel are treating and framing student-to-student interactions. I want to propose that, in fact, both children were sexually harassed by their peers; and to call it "bullying" minimizes what they endured.