Other Forms of Harassment
THE WORD DISCRIMINATION HAS TAKEN ON AN INTENSELY NEGATIVE connotation in our pluralistic society, but discrimination in the positive sense simply means discernment. A diner with a discriminating palate, a department store buyer with discriminating taste in fashion, a school assessment that discriminates between and among students' content knowledge: these phrases are unreservedly complimentary of the form of discrimination described. However, even in this favorable sense, the process of discrimination involves valuing some choices while devaluing or marginalizing others. Harassment of individuals, either by words or conduct, based on characteristics that the harasser scorns like race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or religion, is the most extreme form of this devaluation. When such harassment effects discrimination in education, in the workplace, or in daily life, society cannot afford to tolerate it, much less compliment it. Both federal and state statutes now exist to prohibit harassment of students based on their race or ethnicity, gender orientation or sexual self-identity or religious beliefs, and court decisions have further defined the reach of those statutes.