Every child 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. 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. Click here to view the model policy. Click here to read the model procedure. 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 child 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.
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 shows that when targeted students are prepared, know how to respond appropriately, and seek immediate adult help, the bullying action will stop. Bullying, harassment and intimidation acts can be related to physical appearance, personal traits, race, ethnicity, skin color, form of dress, disability actual or perceived sexual orientation, and gender expression or identity or other characteristics of the victim and they can occur before, after, and during school. It can also take place online, also known as cyberbullying, and over cell phones with text messaging.
Washington State's Definition of Bullying
RCW 28A.300.285 defines bullying and harassment as: "Harassment, intimidation, or bullying" means any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by any characteristic in RCW 9A.36.080(3), or other distinguishing characteristics, when the intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act:
- Physically harms a student or damages the student's property; or
- Has the effect of substantially disrupting a student's education; or
- Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
- 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.
Parent/Guardian's Role to Stop Bullying
Here are some actions you can take at school and at home to help keep your child safe.
- Learn about school and district policies and procedures
- Encourage school to provide trainings to staff, students and parents
- Do not confront the bully or bully's family
- Report the incident to the school principal, using your district's Incident Reporting Form or this model Incident Reporting Form: Sample HIB Incident Reporting Form
- Investigations are required if bullying is unresolved, severe or persistent - see model procedure
- If continued safety is an issue, request an immediate safety plan while the investigation proceeds
- If dissatisfied with the safety plan, meet again with the school principal
- If unhappy with the conclusions of the investigation, appeal to the school district Compliance Officer. This can be further appealed to the Superintendent and then to the School Board
- Ensure appropriate supervision of your youth at school
Note: Due to federal student privacy regulations (FERPA), the school will not be able to share details regarding any disciplinary action taken against the other student, but generally can and will share information related to a safety plan, for example, if the other student will either not be present, or will be instructed to keep a distance from your child.
- Model compassion and respect.
- Do not blame your youth for bringing it on.
- Remember that the home is the safe refuge.
- Spend extra time, give extra support.
- Teach safety strategies to your child, both for the target and the bystander.
- Reminder that hitting back or getting even may result in new troubles, such as suspensions.
- Encourage youth to tell the aggressor that this is bullying and is not appropriate.
- Encourage youth to walk away to a safer place.
- Encourage youth to tell an adult who will listen.
- Ask: What is being done to him/her? Who is doing it? What has he/she done to try to resolve the problem? What does he/she need from the adult to get the bully to quit?
- Identify safe places - classroom, by adults, rejoin a group of peers.
- Nurture and educate.
- Talk about what bullying is and why there are bullies. (The event was not about him/her, but more about the bully.)
- Instill self confidence.
- Identify and encourage the youth's talents and attributes.
- Emphasize that the school staff cares about safety and has a process to assist.
- Let youth be part of the process in resolving the problem.
- Ask school counselor about availability of services to address social skills, if needed.
Could your child be bullying another student?
- If you find out your child is bullying another student, many of the items previously listed are still relevant.
- Be proactive and work with the school counselor who can offer additional support by working with your youth individually or in small group to address the inappropriateness of bullying and alternatives to bullying.