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What is being done to help special needs students who are bullied
One in every 800 children across the United States is born with Down syndrome, which is a chromosomal condition that causes delays in child development both physically and mentally, according to Kids Health Organization. - photo by Herb Scribner
When a middle school cheerleader with Down syndrome was being bullied, the team she cheered for came to her rescue.

During a basketball game last week, students in the stands taunted Desiree Andrews, according to KTLA, a local news station in Wisconsin. The teams players then walked off the court and confronted the bullies about their actions.

We were mad. We didnt like that, Miles Rodriguez, one of the players who walked off the court, said, according to Fox News.

Now, the young cheerleader always has a friend in the hallway, Fox News reported.

One in every 800 children across the United States is born with Down syndrome, which is a chromosomal condition that causes delays in child development both physically and mentally, according to Kids Health Organization. Children with Down syndrome tend to have identifiable physical characteristics, like a flat facial profile, an upward slant to the eyes, small ears and a protruding tongue, according to Kids Health.

Some children with Down syndrome have learning disabilities, while others struggle with developing social skills. Those who struggle with learning in the classroom are often placed into special-education classes for extra attention, according to Kids Health.

Special-needs students are often at high-risk for being bullied, much like Andrews was at the basketball game. A 2011 study published in Pediatrics found that children with special health care needs are bullied more often than those without disabilities.

The study said bullied students were unmotivated to work hard, missed more days of class and had lower grades overall since those students felt unsafe in school.

These problems threaten both their well-being as youth and their future flourishing as adults, the study authors wrote, according to Disability Scoop, a news website focused on disability news. Health and school professionals will need to work together to identify these children much earlier, ensure that they receive appropriate supports and services, and monitor the effectiveness of services.

And federal, state and local governments have been making strides to help students feel safer in the hallways.

The United States Department of Education and the Obama Administration launched the It Gets Better campaign, a video which features department staffers and politicians who tell bullied students that life gets better and that students shouldnt have to wait together we can help make it better today, not tomorrow, according to the department.

In October 2014, the education department also released a Dear Colleague letter that told educators that schools are obligated by federal law to protect students with disabilities from bullying. The letter written by Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, told educators they need to step in during incidents of bullying to help keep those children safe in schools.

While there is broad consensus that bullying cannot be tolerated, the sad reality is that bullying persists in our schools today, especially for students with disabilities, Lhamon wrote in her letter. Basic decency and respect demand that our schools ensure that all their students learn in a safe environment.

Most states across the nation have laws and policies to help students who are bullied in the classroom. For example, in New York, students with disabilities can sue others who harass, bully or taunt them, according to Stop Bullying, a government-funded anti-bullying campaign.

Schools, too, are encouraged to help their students feel safe from bullying. One example comes from the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where workers with neighborhood and community groups continually spread anti-bullying messages to help educate children in the community. Those community groups have also created a tool kit for schools, parents and faith groups to use when they educate children on bullying.
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