What Is Disability Harassment?

According to the United Stated Department of Education (2000), disability harassment is defined as, “intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student's participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution's program.”

Disability harassment is illegal under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Section 504 covers all schools, school districts, and colleges and universities receiving federal funds. Title II covers all state and local entities, including school districts and public institutions of higher education, whether or not they receive federal funds.


There are several laws that protect children from disabilities harassment. Look into each one to become better educated about your child's rights: Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, State Penal laws (criminal law) in some states, and No Child Left Behind.

Bullying behavior can cross the line and become disability harassment if a disabled student is verbally threatened or physically harassed due to his disability. Even such things as another student repeatedly calling your child a “retard” or ridiculing him for having to ride the “short bus” are inappropriate and bullying.

The law states that when a complaint is made or when the school discovers that harassment of a disabled student may have occurred, school personnel must investigate and respond appropriately. The major concern is that students who are exposed to disability harassment may suffer educational setbacks and be undermined in areas that are critical for their advancement.

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