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6. Their son has been teased by his classmates because of his disability. Is the school liable for acts of harassment and vilification committed by a student against another student with a disability?

Students should understand that they could also be liable under the DDO, and schools should also explain this liability to their students.


Students should not harass or vilify any other students or staff members in school. Generally, a school is not liable under the DDO for acts committed by its students. However, if a school has knowledge of discriminatory acts committed by its students against another student with a disability, but it fails to take any action to punish the discriminator(s) or to protect the disabled student, the school may be liable for discrimination under the DDO. For example, the school may be liable for disability discrimination under the following circumstances:


A school often disciplines its students who bully other students in school whenever such bullying acts come to its attention. A student walks with crutches because she had polio. Her classmates have teased her several times when she walks. Sometimes her crutches were even taken away by her classmates. She reported the incidents to the school each time but the school did not take any action either to discipline the harassers or to prevent similar harassing acts from recurring. In that case, the school may also be liable for the discriminatory acts of the harassers.


Going back to the subject question, if the school did nothing to help their son or to punish the harassers, that school would be liable.


For the purpose of teaching students not to harass or vilify persons with disabilities or to avoid possible legal liability, the Equal Opportunities Commission has published the Code of Practice on Education. Every school must take all reasonably practicable steps to avoid acts of harassment or vilification from occurring.