DeKalb County schools must provide training at middle and high schools to stop harassment of students against others because of their religion or nationality, according to an agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice and announced Tuesday.
The agreement came after the Counsel for the Sikh Coalition filed a complaint that a Sikh student at Peachtree Charter Middle School was being harassed by three other students last fall and eventually got into a fight with one of his tormentors.
The complaint said school officials did nothing to help the boy, who had allegedly been subjected to verbal and physical harassment because of his Sikh faith by another student. According to the complaint, a student had tried to cut the boy’s hair, he was called “Aladdin” because he wore a turban, and he was told by a peer he could go back to his country.
The coalition said the school district’s response to several incidents was not appropriate and disciplining the students failed. The boy was afraid he would continue to be harassed.
According to the Justice Department, the district agreed to the settlement but denied it had done anything wrong.
In the 2013-14 term, the school district must work with a consultant to develop and implement anti-harassment training at Peachtree Charter and Dunwoody High School, where the boy is expected to enroll next term, that addresses bias based on religion and national origin. The district also must immediately implement a plan to keep the boy safe when he is at school and is harassed.
The agreement goes so far as to specify where the three boys accused of harassing the other will sit on the bus and where the boy who was their target will sit.
One of the boys and his target will be in separate classes, according to the agreement. If they must be in the same classes, the agreement also says where they will sit in relation to each other. Another student has been removed from the classes they share for the rest of this term.
Staff will be assigned specifically to help the boy if he is harassed at his new school.
The school also has suggested offering “voluntary mediation” between the boys in an attempt to resolve their differences.
“Every student should be able to attend school without fear of being harassed and bullied because of his skin color or religious beliefs,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement.
A DeKalb schools spokeswoman reached late Tuesday was unaware of the allegations or the agreement.
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