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What is a hostile learning environment?

What is a hostile learning environment? Sadly that is a question parents have to ask themselves at times. No child should face a hostile learning environment in school.  However many do, and there can be sharp legal consequences for the schools that create this kind of space for students. In this post, we’ll cover what a hostile learning environment is, how to spot it, and what to do about it.

When you send your child to school you want them to be going someplace where they are safe and cared for. 

Children have to feel safe and supported in schools. After all, in order to learn and grow, students have to make mistakes. Schools need to be the kinds of places where that can happen.

However, if a school has created a hostile learning environment, that can be impossible for children.

What is a hostile learning environment?

A hostile learning environment is specific to a school or classroom and is defined as 

  • A situation of discrimination occurring and creating a harmful setting
  • Intimidating environment creating fear
  • A culture that denies, limits, or interferes with someone’s ability to gain benefits from a job, program, or school

For more information on the legal definition of a hostile environment click here. 

In the context of a school, a hostile environment is a place that causes students to be fearful, intimidated, or has multiple incidents of discrimination. All of this can interfere with learning.

How can I tell if my child is facing a hostile learning environment?

A significant indicator of a hostile learning environment is how your child feels about going to school. Are they happy to do so? Or do they dread it?

Observe how your child seems on their way to school and when they come home. Be on the lookout for changes in their behavior. If they used to love school, but suddenly seem to hate it, almost overnight, that is an indicator something is wrong.

If you are worried, ask your child about what is going on in school.

Be on the lookout for signs of discrimination. These can include

  • Not making reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities
  • Grading work lower than its worth
  • Imposing harsh or unreasonable punishments
  • Not responding to reports of bullying

Click here to download our free checklist of signs of discrimination.

If your student is part of a protected class as defined by the American Disabilities Act and the school is not taking actions to protect them from bullying, refusing to make reasonable accommodations, or being too harsh on your child, that could be discrimination.

What should I do?

If you believe your child is facing a hostile learning environment, you as a parent have every right to react. 

Contact school staff, administrators, and teachers about your concerns. Keep a record of all communication between yourself and school officials. Save emails, letters, and take notes during meetings and phone calls.

If you are not satisfied with the school’s response or if they make no modifications, contact Cueto Law at 618-277-1554. You can discuss the details of your case with one of our attorneys, for free!

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