Schools’ Role in Prevention

How Can Schools Help?

Every student needs a safe space in order to learn and interact with their peers in a healthy and supportive way. In 2002, Washington State adopted a law, RCW 28A.300.285, prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying in every school. In 2007, it was amended to include electronic forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying.

NEW SCHOOL DISTRICT MODEL POLICY & PROCEDURE

As of August 1, 2011, all Washington school districts must adopt the new model policy and procedure developed by the Office of the Education Ombuds, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington School Directors Association.

Included is a requirement that schools communicate the policy and procedure to all parents, school staff and students in order to enable the entire community to work together and prevent bullying.

Here are some of the highlights from the new model policy and procedure:

  • Any school staff who observes, overhears, or otherwise witnesses bullying or harassment, must take immediate appropriate action and report it promptly.
  • The district will implement prevention strategies including individual, classroom, school and district-level approaches.
  • Students and staff will receive annual training on district's policy and procedure and preventing bullying.
  • The principal or designee will acknowledge the incident that has been reported with an Incident Report Form within 2 school days to the parents of the complainant and alleged aggressor.
  • An investigation for each incident will be fully conducted in 5 school days from when the Incident Report Form is filed.
  • If necessary, corrective measures will be decided and implemented 12 school days from when the Incident Report Form is filed.

Bullying is not something schools and families should take lightly. Bullying is a repeated negative behavior that takes advantage of a less-powerful person, and sometimes even makes the student who is bullied feel at fault. Hitting, name calling, shunning and shaming are all forms of bullying. So are spreading rumors, gossiping and making threats online. School staff members who know the facts and work as a team to prevent and address bullying improve the school climate and prevent further incidents.

The Facts

More than one in four eighth-graders reported in the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey that they were bullied in the past month. However, research has shown that when bystanders and peers discourage the bully there is a 50 percent chance the action will stop immediately. The main forms of bullying and harassment in schools may be because of physical appearance, actual or perceived sexual orientation, and gender expression or identity. Bullying can occur before, after, and during school. It can also take place online, also known as cyberbullying, and over cell phones with text messaging.

All School Adults Have a Role to Stop Bullying

Educators have the responsibility to maintain a safe environment for students to academically and socially develop. As a leader in the school, educators and school staff can help prevent bullying by building strong relationships with students, intervening when signs of bullying are witnessed, and supporting a bullying prevention campaign in the school.

The following are specific steps educators in different roles should take:

PRINCIPALS:

  • Assess the climate of the school. Work with others to create social norms that include anti-bullying expectations and should be practiced by everyone in the school, students and adults alike.
  • Implement evidence-based prevention programs that are designed to increase social competency, improve school climate, and eliminate harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools.
  • Ensure students receive age-appropriate information annually on how to recognize and prevent harassment, bullying, and intimidation. This can occur on student orientation sessions and other appropriate occasions.
  • Form a group to coordinate the school's bullying prevention program. Include representatives from every party of the school including: administrator, teacher from each grade, a non-teaching staff member, school counselor, and parent.
  • Increase supervision in areas of the school or times of the day when bullying occurs.
  • Oversee the investigation process in 5 school days or less from the time the Incident Report Form is submitted.
  • Ensure the resolution of the case is documented on the student information system and written notification of outcome is given to families.
  • Implement corrective measures in 12 days from when the Incident Report Form is submitted if the accused bully is found at fault.

SCHOOL DISTRICT ADMINISTRATORS & COMPLIANCE OFFICERS:

  • Provide annual training on the school district's policy and procedure, including staff roles and responsibilities, how to monitor common areas and the used of the district's Incident Reporting Form.
  • Oversee that all schools are implementing evidence-based prevention programs that are designed to increase social competency, improve school climate, and eliminate harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools.
  • The Compliance Officer will support school administrators and staff in resolving complaints.

TEACHERS & STAFF:

  • Increase supervision in areas of the school or times of the day when bullying occurs.
  • Intervene immediately when witnessing harassment, intimidation or bullying.
  • On all occurrences, staff shall document incidents in writing. If there is potential for clear and immediate physical harm to the victim, law enforcement and parent/guardian shall be contacted right away.
  • When unsure if you have been confronted with possible harassment, intimidation, or bullying, consult with the principal, school counselor, and/or district compliance officer.