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Duty to Protect Students

Local Educational Agencies Responsibility to Students.

Access to quality education is a fundamental right of every student and is fully guaranteed and protected by the California Constitution. Education plays a central role in our society and numerous laws are designed to promote equality in educational opportunities and to safeguard all students from discriminatory practices in public schools.

The duty to protect children in the public schools from discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying is the responsibility of the local education agency (LEA). California Education Code (EC) Section 200 et seq., is a comprehensive statutory scheme, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of various protected groups. Specifically, Education Code Section 220 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes as described in Penal Code Section 422.55.

At a minimum, LEAs are to have taken the following steps:

  • Adopt a policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on the characteristics set forth in the Penal Code Section 422.55 and Education Code Section 220. The policy shall include a statement that it applies to all acts related to school activity or school attendance within a school under the jurisdiction of the superintendent of the school district. In addition, the policy is to require that school personnel take immediate steps to intervene when he or she witnesses an act of discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying and when it is safe to do so. (Education Code Sections 201, 234.1[a] and 48900; California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR Sections 4900, 4902, and 4950.)
  • Adopted and implemented a complaint process to receive, investigate, and resolve allegations of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on any of the actual or perceived characteristics contained in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code and Education Code Section 220, and shall include, but not limited, to the following (Education Code Sections 234.1[b] and 260; 5 CCR Sections 4621 and 4960[a]):
    • A timeline for the investigation and resolution of complaints of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying that all schools under the jurisdiction of the district will follow.
    • Provide an appeal process to the complainant should he or she disagree with the resolution of the complaint.
    • All forms created relative to this process shall be translated pursuant to Section 48985.
  • Identified the person in the LEA responsible for implementation of the discrimination and harassment policy and the person responsible for investigating complaints, as well as ensuring compliance with Chapter 5.3 (commencing with Section 4900) of Division 1 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations and Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 200). (Education Code Section 234.1(g); 5 CCR Sections 4621(b) and 4961.)
  • Publicized information annually to parents, and students, employees, agents of the governing board and general public regarding discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying policies and complaint procedures and how to contact the person responsible for implementation. This information is to be translated according to Section 48985. (Education Code Sections 234.1[c], 35291, 48980[a] and [g]; 5 CCR Sections 4622 and 4960[b].)
  • Adopted curriculum and instructional methods and materials, and electronic communication policies that promote a safe environment free of discrimination and harassment. (Education Code Sections 233[b][1]; 241; 32261.) and
  • Investigated all allegations of discrimination and implemented effective corrective actions whenever necessary and appropriate; maintain documentation of complaints and their resolution for a minimum of one review cycle; and ensure that complainants are protected from retaliation and the identify remains confidential. (Education Code Sections 234.1[b][e][f] 260; 5 CCR Sections 4621 and 4962.)
  • Posted policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying in all schools and offices, which include staff lounges and student government meeting rooms. (Education Code Section 234.1[d].)

Discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students based on their protected status can have a profound and prolonged adverse effect on the students’ ability to benefit from public education and maximize their potential. The responsibility to protect all students rests primarily with the LEAs under numerous laws set forth above.

Therefore, all LEAs are urged to review their discrimination policies and complaint procedures, and ensure that they are consistent with current laws, adequately disseminated, and fully implemented.

Nondiscrimination In Public Schools Brochure (DOC; Posted 29-Jan-2016)


Questions: Office of Equal Opportunity | 916-445-9174 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 25, 2020