School District model policy and procedure
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. As of August 1, 2011, all Washington school districts must adopt a model policy and procedure standard developed by the Office of the Education Ombuds, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington School Directors Association.
“Harassment, intimidation, or bullying” means any intentionally written message or image— including those that are electronically transmitted—verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, including gender expression or identity, mental or physical disability or other distinguishing characteristics, when an act:
- Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property.
- Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education.
- Is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment.
- Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.
Nothing in this section requires the affected student to actually possess a characteristic that is a basis for the harassment, intimidation, or bullying. “Other distinguishing characteristics” can include but are not limited to: physical appearance, clothing or other apparel, socioeconomic status, and weight. “Intentional acts” refers to the individual’s choice to engage in the act rather than the ultimate impact of the action(s).
Model Procedure for addressing Bullying
Step 1: Filing an Incident Reporting Form
In order to protect a targeted student from retaliation, a student need not reveal his identity on an Incident Reporting Form. The form may be filed anonymously, confidentially, or the student may choose to disclose his or her identity (non-confidential).
Status of Reporter
Individuals may file a report without revealing their identity. No disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor based solely on an anonymous report. Schools may identify complaint boxes or develop other methods for receiving anonymous, unsigned reports. Possible responses to an anonymous report include enhanced monitoring of specific locations at certain times of day or increased monitoring of specific students or staff. (Example: An unsigned Incident Reporting Form dropped on a teacher’s desk led to the increased monitoring of the boys’ locker room in 5th period.
Individuals may ask that their identities be kept secret from the accused and other students. Like anonymous reports, no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor based solely on a confidential report. (Example: A student tells a playground supervisor about a classmate being bullied but asks that nobody know who reported the incident. The supervisor says, “I won’t be able to punish the bullies unless you or someone else who saw it is willing to let me use their names, but I can start hanging out near the basketball court, if that would help.”)
Individuals may agree to file a report non-confidentially. Complainants agreeing to make their complaint non-confidential will be informed that due process requirements may require that the district release all of the information that it has regarding the complaint to any individuals involved in the incident, but that even then, information will still be restricted to those with a need to know, both during and after the investigation. The district will, however, fully implement the anti-retaliation provision of this policy and procedure to protect complainants and witnesses.
Step 2: Receiving an Incident Reporting Form
All staff are responsible for receiving oral and written reports. Whenever possible staff who initially receive an oral or written report of harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall attempt to resolve the incident immediately. If the incident is resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved, or if the
incident does not meet the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, no further action may be necessary under this procedure. All reports of unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation, or bullying will be recorded on a district Incident Reporting Form and submitted to the principal or designee, unless the designee is the subject of the complaint.
Step 3: Investigations of Unresolved, Severe, or Persistent Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying
All reports of unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation, or bullying will be investigated with resonable promptness. Any student may have a trusted adult with them throughout the report and investigation process.
a. Upon receipt of the Incident Reporting Form that alleges unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation or bullying, the school or district designee will begin the investigation. If there is potential for clear and immediate physical harm to the complainant, the district will immediately contact law enforcement and inform the parent/guardian.
b. During the course of the investigation, the district will take reasonable measures to ensure that no further incidents of harassment, intimidation, or bullying occur between the complainant and the alleged aggressor. If necessary, the district will implement a safety plan for the student(s) involved. The plan may include changing seating arrangements for the complainant and/or the alleged aggressor in the classroom, at lunch, or on the bus; identifying a staff member who will act as a safe person for the complainant; altering the alleged agressor’s schedule and access to the complainant, and other measures.
c. Within two (2) school days after receiving the Incident Reporting Form, the school designee will notify the families of the students involved that a complaint was received and direct the families to the district’s policy and procedure on harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
d. In rare cases, where after consultation with the student and appropriate staff (such as a psychologist, counselor, or social worker) the district has evidence that it would threaten the health and safety of the complainant or the alleged aggressor to involve his or her parent/guardian, the district may initially refrain from contacting the parent/guardian in its investigation of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. If professional school personnel suspect that a student is subject to abuse and neglect, they must follow district policy for reporting suspected cases to Child Protective Services.
e. The investigation shall include, at a minimum:
- An interview with the complainant.
- An interview with the alleged aggressor.
- A review of any previous complaints involving either the complainant or the alleged aggressor.
- Interviews with other students or staff members who may have knowledge of the alleged incident.
f. The principal or designee may determine that other steps must be taken before the investigation is complete.
g. The investigation will be completed as soon as practicable but generally no later than five (5) school days from the initial complaint or report. If more time is needed to complete an investigation, the district will provide the parent/guardian and/or the student with weekly updates.
h. No later than two (2) school days after the investigation has been completed and submitted to the compliance officer, the principal or designee shall respond in writing or in person to the parent/guardian of the complainant and the alleged aggressor stating:
- The results of the investigation.
- Whether the allegations were found to be factual.
- Whether there was a violation of policy.
- The process for the complainant to file an appeal if the complainant disagrees with results.
Because of the legal requirement regarding the confidentiality of student records, the principal or designee may not be able to report specific information to the targeted student’s parent/guardian about any disciplinary action taken unless it involves a directive that the targeted student must be aware of in order to report violations. If a district chooses to contact the parent/guardian by letter, the letter will be mailed to the parent/guardian of the complainant and alleged aggressor by United States postal service with return receipt requested unless it is determined, after consultation with the student and appropriate staff (psychologist, counselor, social worker) that it could endanger the complainant or the alleged aggressor to involve his or her family. If professional school personnel suspect that a student is subject to abuse or neglect, as mandatory reporters they must follow district policy for reporting suspected cases to Child Protective Services. If the incident is unable to be resolved at the school level, the principal or designee shall request
assistance from the district.
Step 4: Corrective Measures for the Aggressor
After completion of the investigation, the school or district designee will institute any corrective measures necessary. Corrective measures will be instituted as quickly as possible, but in no event more than five (5) school days after contact has been made to the families or guardians regarding the outcome of the investigation. Corrective measures that involve student discipline will be implemented according to district policy XXXX—student discipline. If the accused aggressor is appealing the imposition of discipline, the district may be prevented by due process considerations or a lawful order from imposing the discipline until the appeal process is concluded. If in an investigation a principal or principal’s designee found that a student knowingly made a false allegation of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, that student may be subject to corrective measures, including discipline.
Step 5: Targeted Student’s Right to Appeal
1. If the complainant or parent/guardian is dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, they may appeal to the superintendent or his or her designee by filing a written notice of appeal within five (5) school days of receiving the written decision. The superintendent or his or her designee will review the investigative report and issue a written decision on the merits of the appeal within five (5) school days of receiving the notice of appeal.
2. If the targeted student remains dissatisfied after the initial appeal to the superintendent, the student may appeal to the school board by filing a written notice of appeal with the secretary of the school board on or before the fifth (5) school day following the date upon which the complainant received the superintendent’s written decision.
3. An appeal before the school board or disciplinary appeal council must be heard on or before the tenth (10) school day following the filing of the written notice of appeal to the school board. The school board or disciplinary appeal council will review the record and render a written decision on the merits of the appeal on or before the fifth (5) school day following the termination of the hearing, and shall provide a copy to all parties involved. The board or council’s decision will be the final district decision.
Step 6: Discipline/Corrective Action
The district will take prompt and equitable corrective measures within its authority on findings of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. Depending on the severity of the conduct, corrective measures may include counseling, education, discipline, and/or referral to law enforcement. Corrective measures for a student who commits an act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying will be varied and graded according to the nature of the behavior, the developmental age of the student, or the student’s history of problem behaviors and performance. Corrective measures that involve student discipline will be implemented according to district policy XXXX—student discipline. If the conduct was of a public nature or involved groups of students or bystanders, the district should strongly consider schoolwide training or other activities to address the incident. If staff have been found to be in violation of this policy and procedure, school districts may impose employment disciplinary action, up to and including termination. If a certificated educator is found to have committed a violation of WAC 181-87, commonly called the Code of Conduct for Professional Educators, OSPI’s Office of Professional Practices may propose disciplinary action on a certificate, up to and including revocation. Contractor violations of this policy may include the loss of contracts.
Step 7: Support for the Targeted Student
Persons found to have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, or bullying will have appropriate district support services made available to them, and the adverse impact of the harassment on the student shall be addressed and remedied as appropriate.