June 03, 2014

Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities Download: Top 10 facts parents, educators and students need to know

  1. The facts – Students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.

    Bullying of children with disabilities is significant but there is very little research to document it.

    Only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. One study shows that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.

  2. Bullying affects a student’s ability to learn.

    Many students with disabilities are already addressing challenges in the academic environment. When they are bullied, it can directly impact their education.

    Bullying is not a harmless rite of childhood that everyone experiences. Research shows that bullying can negatively impact a child’s access to education and lead to:

    • School avoidance and higher rates of absenteeism
    • Decrease in grades
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Loss of interest in academic achievement
    • Increase in dropout rates

    For more information read PACER’s “Common Views About Bullying”

  3. The definition – Bullying based on a student’s disability may be considered harassment.

    The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated that bullying may also beconsidered harassment when it is based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.

    Harassing behaviors may include:

    • Unwelcome conduct such as verbal abuse, name-calling, epithets, or slurs
    • Graphic or written statements
    • Threats
    • Physical assault
    • Other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating
  4. The Federal Laws – Disability harassment is a civil rights issue.

    Parents have legal rights when their child with a disability is the target of bullying or disability harassment. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (often referred to as ‘Section 504’) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) are the federal laws that apply if the harassment denies a student with a disability an equal opportunity to education. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. Students with a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) would qualify for these protections. 

     According to a 2000 Dear Colleague letter from the Office for Civil Rights, “States and school districts also have a responsibility under Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is enforced by OSERS [the Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services], to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to eligible students with disabilities. Disability harassment may result in a denial of FAPE under these statutes.”

    The letter further outlines how bullying in the form of disability harassment may prevent a student with an IEP from receiving an appropriate education: “The IDEA was enacted to ensure that recipients of IDEA funds make available to students with disabilities the appropriate special education and related services that enable them to access and benefit from public education. The specific services to be provided a student with a disability are set forth in the student's individualized education program (IEP), which is developed by a team that includes the student's parents, teachers and, where appropriate, the student. Harassment of a student based on disability may decrease the student's ability to benefit from his or her education and amount to a denial of FAPE.”

    NEW! On August 20, 2013, ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance to educators and stakeholders on the matter of bullying of students with disabilities. This guidance provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities to ensure that students with disabilities who are subject to bullying continue to receive free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, States and school districts are obligated to ensure that students with disabilities receive FAPE in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This guidance explains that any bullying of a student with disabilities which results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit is considered a denial of FAPE. Furthermore, this letter notes that certain changes to an educational program of a student with a disability (e.g., placement in a more restricted “protected” setting to avoid bullying behavior) may constitute a denial of FAPE in the LRE. Learn more

  5. The State Laws – Students with disabilities have legal rights when they are a target of bullying.

    Most states have laws that address bullying. Some have information specific to students with disabilities. For a complete overview of state laws, visit StopBullying.gov.

    Many school districts also have individual policies that address how to respond to bullying situations. Contact your local district to request a written copy of the district policy on bullying.

  6. The adult response is important

    Parents, educators, and other adults are the most important advocates that a student with disabilities can have. It is important that adults know the best way to talk with someone in a bullying situation.

    Some children are able to talk with an adult about personal matters and may be willing to discuss bullying. Others may be reluctant to speak about the situation. There could be a number of reasons for this. The student bullying them may have told them not to tell or they might fear that if they do tell someone, the bullying won’t stop or may become worse.

    When preparing to talk to children about bullying, adults (parents and educators) should consider how they will handle the child’s questions and emotions and what their own responses will be. Adults should be prepared to listen without judgment, providing the child with a safe place to work out their feelings and determine their next steps.

    It is never the responsibility of the child to fix a bullying situation. If children could do that, they wouldn’t be seeking the help of an adult in the first place.

    For more information, read PACER’s “Talking With Your Child About Bullying”

  7. The resources – Students with disabilities have resources that are specifically designed for their situation.

    Students with disabilities, who are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  
    The IEP can be a helpful tool in a bullying prevention plan. Remember, every child receiving special education is entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), and bullying can become an obstacle to that education.

    For more information, read PACER’s “Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Bullying

    Dear Colleague Letter
    In 2000, a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter was sent to school districts nationwide from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) that defined the term “disability harassment.” 

    In 2010, another Dear Colleague letter from the Office for Civil Rights was issued that reminded school districts of their responsibilities under civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and religion.

    Template Letters
    Parents should contact school staff each time their child informs them that he or she has been bullied. Parents may use one of these template letters as a guide for writing a letter to their child’s school. These letters contain standard language and “fill-in-the-blank” spaces so that the letter can be customized for each child’s situation. 

    PACER Center’s sample letter(s) can serve two purposes: 

    • First, the letter will alert school administration of the bullying and your desire for interventions. 
    • Second, the letter can serve as your written record when referring to events. The record (letter) should be factual and absent of opinions or emotional statements. 

    The two letters – “Student with an IEP, Notifying School About Bullying” and “Student with a 504, Notifying School About Bullying” – are for parents who have a child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504. The bullying law of the individual state applies to all students as noted in the law. When bullying is based on the child’s disability, federal law can also apply under Section 504, Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  8. The Power of Bystanders – More than 50 percent of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.

    Most students don’t like to see bullying but they may not know what to do when it happens. Peer advocacy – students speaking out on behalf of others – is a unique approach that empowers students to protect those targeted by bullying.

    Peer advocacy works for two reasons: First, students are more likely than adults to see what is happening with their peers and peer influence is powerful. Second, a student telling someone to stop bullying has much more impact than an adult giving the same advice.

    Learn more about peer advocacy>>>

  9. The importance of self-advocacy

    Self-advocacy means the student with a disability is responsible for telling people what they want and need in a straightforward way. Students need to be involved in the steps taken to address a bullying situation.

    Self-advocacy is knowing how to:

    • Speak up for yourself
    • Describe your strengths, disability, needs, and wishes
    • Take responsibility for yourself
    • Learn about your rights
    • Obtain help, or know who to ask, if you have a question

    The person who has been bullied should be involved in deciding how to respond to the bullying. This involvement can provide students with a sense of control over their situation, and help them realize that someone is willing to listen, take action, and reassure them that their opinions and ideas are important.

    Learn more about self advocacy for students, PACER’s “Tips for Teens: Use Your IEP Meetings to Learn How to Advocate for Yourself”

    The Student Action Plan is a self-advocacy resource. It includes three simple steps to explore specific, tangible actions to address the situation:

    1. Define the situation
    2. Think about how the situation could be different
    3. Write down the steps to take action
  10. You are not alone

    When students have been bullied, they often believe they are the only one this is happening to, and that no one else cares. In fact, they are not alone.

    There are individuals, communities, and organizations that do care. It is not up to one person to end the bullyingand it is never the responsibility of the child to change what is happening to them. No one deserves to be bullied.All people should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what. Everyone has a responsibility – and a role to play – as schools, parents, students, and the community work together for positive change.

    Teens, learn more about what you can do, read PACER’s “Drama: Is it Happening To You?” 
    Parents, learn more about what you can, read PACER’s “Steps to Take If Bullying is Happening To You



May 28, 2014

Short Of The Week Interview Transcript with Director Seth Shapiro

  1. What was the genesis of the project? How did find out about Matt and approach his family about telling his story?

    Matt and Rudy Tapia have been my neighbors in Santa Monica since 2010.  The three of us have always bonded over our love of sports, and football in particular. Matt loves the Trojans, while Rudy is a UCLA alum. Matt loves to give his dad a hard time, but from the beginning I could tell the love they had for each other and the bond they shared was unquestionable. When we first met, I came to recognize that Matt always had a positive energy to him; at the same time, you always felt like something was missing, like maybe he was feeling left out or didn’t have a buddy to hang out with on the weekend.

    Last summer, I got a hard knock on my door, as I so often do, by Rudy and Matt. I opened the door and there was Matt proudly wearing a Santa Monica HS football t-shirt. “Guess what?” Rudy proudly announced. “Matt is on the SaMoHi football team!” Matt had an ear-to-ear grin on his face and I couldn’t help but start smiling, too. He gave me a big high five and at that moment I saw a change in him. He was so happy, he was part of a team, and he felt included and wanted. I believe there is truly nothing in life we want more than to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I congratulated Matt and told him that playing football would be the best experience of his life, and I meant it. I was an average high school football player myself, in the small state of Rhode Island, but as average as I was, the experiences I had and the friendships I made have lasted forever. To be a part of that family, that TEAM, is something that was ingrained in me and to this day has served to teach me invaluable life lessons about accountability, loyalty, being a teammate and, most importantly, being a friend.

    As a filmmaker, I was intrigued by Matt’s story. There were Matt’s setbacks, for one. But I also wanted to know: Who was this coach that would let Matt play on his team? Football isn’t basketball or soccer, where contact isn’t an issue. I wanted to know how would he integrate Matt into the team, how the team would take to Matt, and what Matt would learn from the experience.  There were many different story lines I was interested in pursuing. Rudy and I spoke, and he loved the idea of a film, and wanted to make it happen. We went down to practice one day in the pre-season and met with Coach Clark, who was very excited about it, too. Meanwhile, I loved his energy and infectious, positive attitude. What I didn’t know was that Coach was also in the “business”—he’s a prolific steadicam operator in Los Angeles who has shot most of Tupac’s music videos. He works at DIRECTV during the day and spends the rest of his time studying X’s & O’s and caring for these kids. He knew this could be a great story and started pitching me other stories as well, as so many people do when they get excited about a project. We were set to shoot the home opener against Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei, and Matt was going to lead the team out of the tunnel and also be a part of the captain’s coin toss at the 50 yard line. I guess this is where the “challenges” begins…



  1. What were some of the biggest challenges -- either in production or post-production?

    Right around the time all this was happening, my wife and I had our first baby, Sophie Catherine, on June 30th. A game changer to say the least: My life was kind of thrown upside down, adapting to being a new dad and figuring out all the stuff that comes with it. Around the same time I was hired by the new Time Warner Dodgers channel to start covering the end of the Dodgers’ magical season through the playoffs and banking promo footage for their launch in 2014.  So with the baby, this Dodgers gig—which had me crosstown and on the road more than I wanted to be—and another big NFL project, everything else started to slip through the cracks. We didn’t shoot SaMo’s home opener or anything during the regular season, but the story was always on my mind, and as we know in the filmmaker community that can gnaw at you in ways that are indescribable.

    Around Thanksgiving, SaMo made it into the CIF Division II playoffs. Rudy and I spoke on the morning of the game, and agreed it was now or never. So I asked one of my guys, Erik Butts, if he would come out with me to shoot the game. He agreed and we headed over with our DSLR packages, lean and mean. We got to Santa Monica College, where SaMo plays their home games, but since this was a playoff game, security was ramped up. They wouldn’t let us in with our cameras because we didn’t have permits and permission, etc. etc.  So after a lot of persuasion and a handwritten release that I drew up at the hot dog stand, basically promising that I wouldn’t release any of the footage until approved by Santa Monica HS and the district, they allowed us on the sidelines to film. When we walked on the field pre-game to shoot the guys stretching, Coach Clark almost kicked us out—that’s how long it had been—and then recognized me and told me we were all good. It was kind of a funny moment, as we’ve become closer since the making of the film. Once we captured the game, and the great moment of Matt getting into the game, we knew we had something.

    After that, we quickly put the wheels into motion.  A 2-man crew—Taylor Hawkins and I—headed over to practice that following Tuesday, shot some B-roll, and then did the sit-down interviews with Matt’s teammates.  I was really impressed with the kids, how they were so boldly and confidently able to express themselves for the camera, how Matt had inspired them, and what he had taught them. It was definitely a reflection on their coach, who was also so eloquently able to describe what Matt had meant to his team and the impact he’d had. Rudy, meanwhile, gave a very honest portrayal of Matt’s struggles and what the experience of being on the team not only meant to Matt but to also to Rudy, who’s raised Matt basically by himself.

    Taylor and I started to cobble together a story. We realized we needed to introduce Matt’s point of view. The scene in which Matt goes to school, and his interview, all happened weeks later, closer to the Christmas holiday.

    For us, as I imagine for many filmmakers, there’s always a dilemma between “client” work and our “passion” projects. The passion projects always seem to fall on the backburner in pursuit of the next payday (or just to be able to pay the bills). So the “Matt” edit was lingering in December when I read a blog post by Philip Bloom in which a Discovery Sr. Executive stressed the importance of production companies to keep pursuing and producing their passion projects, because they represent your point of view and not a piece of work that will be dissected by every Tom, Dick, and Harry at said Network or Agency. Reading that post really inspired me to finish the film. Taylor and I set a goal of January 10, which was the SaMo HS Football banquet, to finish the film. We were in the program, so we had to finish. There was no choice. Then Matt joined the basketball team and that opened up a whole new can of worms….



  1. What do you hope viewers take away from Matt the person and "Matt" the movie?

    One thing I love about the film is, yeah, you can say this is a story we’ve heard before (Rudy, Brian’s Song, etc.) but I think our film has so many layers to it: It’s sad, but then it’s happy and then inspiring. Everyone we’ve screened it to feels the film in a different place. Some when they see Matt’s hands when he was born, some when Coach almost chokes up when he talks about Matt asking him “How to Fit In” or when Matt enters the game for the first time and you hear the roar of the small crowd. Some people love when we bring in Matt and he talks about his teammates “being friends for life.” I’m proud of the fact that the film has so much depth to it; it’s not just a single emotion. There are many themes—friendship, brotherhood, teamwork, family—and, I think, universal appeal. A friend of mine who owns a small ad agency told me he thought “Matt” was a brand’s dream, with organic slogans that reminded him of Adidas’s tagline “Impossible is Nothing.”

    But what I really hope people take away from “Matt” is the idea, “Don’t let other people’s expectations be yours.” In the case of Matt, everyone was so happy that “he got in the game.” They thought that would be the greatest moment of his life. But to Matt, it was really “sort of a disappointment.” He wanted more. He wanted to “run to the pylon and score that touchdown” that he’d always dreamed about.  To him, just taking a knee wasn’t enough, or as exhilarating as everyone thought it would be for him, including his dad. I think so often, we live to the expectations of others and what we should be accomplishing. We live to the bar they set for us. In reality, we should live up to our own bar, and in that “room without a roof” that I keep hearing Pharrell sing about on my radio. I loved what Kevin Person said towards the end of the film:  “What did I learn from Matt? Anything is possible… If you want to play football or do anything, you can do it and nothing can stop you.”  And how true that really is. So often we’re our own worst enemy in derailing our dreams.



  1. Finally, what's next for you (and/or Diesel)?

    Wow. It’s been a big month for Diesel. We just won a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding New Approaches Short Format with our friends over at NFL Digital Media for our fitness activation called NFL UP! It’s always exciting to be recognized by your peers. We’re now ramping into Season 2 of UP!  which is close to announcing a big national sponsor.

    We’re also getting ready to launch a bunch of high school football marketing content with our partners at Nike West. We have another “oral history” multimedia presentation in development with NFL Digital Media that hasn’t been announced yet. And of course we’re looking for our next “passion” project as a follow up to Matt.”  We’re considering jumping into the scripted genre, and I’m reading over a bunch of scripts right now. We’re also reviewing candidates for a Director of Development position to continue our development with a focus on digital media and branded content. And, of course, just continuing to live by our mantra of Believe, Create and Inspire.

    We’re also getting ready to launch a bunch of high school football marketing content with our partners at Nike West. We have another “oral history” multimedia presentation in development with NFL Digital Media that hasn’t been announced yet. And of course we’re looking for our next “passion” project as a follow up to “Matt.” We’re considering jumping into the scripted genre, and I’m reading over a bunch of scripts right now. We’re also reviewing candidates for a Director of Development position to continue our development with a focus on digital media and branded content. And, of course, just continuing to live by our mantra of Believe, Create and Inspire.


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