Attorney General James Reaches Agreement to Address Discrimination, Bullying, and Harassment in Mamaroneck Schools
OAG Found Mamaroneck UFSD Inadequately Responded to Harassment, Bullying, and Discrimination against Students in Violation of Title VI and Title IX
Mamaroneck UFSD to Make Substantial Policy Changes, Provide Student Counseling, and Report Bullying to OAG
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with the Mamaroneck Union Free School District (Mamaroneck UFSD) over its failure to respond to instances of race- and gender-based bullying and harassment against students in schools. The settlement resolves the Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) investigation, which began in June 2020 following allegations from students and parents that administrators had failed to adequately address confirmed instances of race- and gender-based bullying and harassment. The complaints alleged that the Mamaroneck UFSD’s lack of action led to students being repeatedly degraded and discriminated against by their classmates for months across various schools within the district. The severity of the harassment interfered with students’ ability to learn, socialize, and feel safe within their schooling environment. Through the settlement announced today, Mamaroneck UFSD agrees to implement substantial policy changes, provide student counseling, and engage in data collection and reporting to OAG for its responses to future instances of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
“With this agreement, the Mamaroneck Union Free School District has committed to take appropriate measures to meet its duty to children and their families and to protect students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” said Attorney General James. “My office will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that every child feels safe and respected in the classroom.”
Federal law guarantees all students the right to a public education, and it provides that they shall not be deprived of this most basic right on the basis of race or sex. Title VI and Title IX specifically require schools take steps to protect students from race- and gender-based misconduct. Further, New York’s Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) requires public schools to provide a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying. DASA requires schools to investigate and respond to instances of bullying with measures reasonably calculated to end the behavior creating a hostile environment for a student.
The OAG’s investigation concluded that Mamaroneck UFSD’s failure to address student bullying and harassment constituted a violation of Title VI and Title IX. Black students and other students of color were regularly the targets of racial epithets and sexually offensive harassment. The OAG found that Mamaroneck UFSD, despite promptly investigating these incidents, failed to engage in necessary responses to limit this behavior in the future. Consequently, the inconsistent and ineffective approaches to the misconduct led to students continuing to be subjected to harassment and bullying from their peers. Students who were victims of this behavior experienced physical, mental, and emotional suffering that interfered with their ability to participate in social and educational activities within the classroom.
The Mamaroneck UFSD has agreed to comply with robust reforms to improve its response to future instances of race- and gender-based bullying, harassment, and discrimination, including but not limited to:
- Revising Mamaroneck UFSD’s harassment policies to ensure prompt and effective responses to misconduct;
- Punishing retaliatory attacks from offenders following a report from a victim;
- Providing written reports for each student complaint involving bullying, harassment, or discrimination; and
- Providing school-based counseling services for at-risk students affected by such misconduct.
The Mamaroneck UFSD will also cooperate with OAG to ensure compliance with the aforementioned measures and will provide written summary reports to OAG of bullying and harassment incidents to confirm their policies are in accordance with the district’s Equity Work Plan.
This settlement concludes OAG’s first investigation related to allegations of student-on-student race-based bullying and harassment. The OAG remains committed to ensuring that the rights of students are not violated or infringed on school grounds. The OAG encourages New Yorkers with information regarding misconduct within their school districts to please contact OAG’s Civil Rights Bureau.
“I'm pleased that the Mamaroneck UFSD has reached a meaningful agreement with the Office of Attorney General Letitia James to ensure prompt and meaningful responses to complaints of race- and gender-based bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” said State Senator Shelley Mayer. “This agreement will ensure there are real and accountable steps taken to address complaints, and hopefully will in turn reduce the incidence of these kinds of acts, which have no place in our schools. I commend the leadership of the Mamaroneck UFSD for its work to reach an agreement that puts the needs of students and families first. Thank you to the staff of the Attorney General's office for negotiating such a forward-thinking resolution to this issue.”
“I am very pleased that the Mamaroneck School District and the Attorney General’s office have come to agreement on policies and practices to ensure that all students are treated with respect and are protected in the school environment,” said Assemblymember Steve Otis. “Thank you to Attorney General Letitia James for promoting these values around the state and the office of Attorney General for providing a framework that will be helpful to all institutions.”
“I am glad to hear that the Office of the Attorney General and the Mamaroneck Union Free School District have reached agreement,” said Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Jaine Elkind Eney. “I hope now that the MUFSD and the Community will move forward together.”
“Mamaroneck, like any community, is not immune from both explicit and implicit discrimination. I am glad that reforms will be enacted to protect our children from race-based prejudice,” said Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Tom Murphy. “No child should feel intimidated and unwelcome in their learning environment. Hopefully the changes that will be enacted in the settlement will improve how these awful situations are handled in the future. We all must work harder to acknowledge and address systemic racism in our community. Ignoring the problem because it’s uncomfortable to address only prolongs injustice and suffering which ultimately hurts all of us.”
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Joel Marrero of the Civil Rights Bureau and former Assistant Attorney General Janice Powers of the Westchester Regional Office, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Travis England. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.