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Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Policies (July 2007 School Leader Update)

All school boards, public and those of accredited nonpublic schools, are to have the new anti-bullying/anti-harassment policy adopted on or before September 1, 2007. This is an accreditation issue. Failure to adopt a policy with all required components could subject a school or school district to a Phase II visit and possible loss of accreditation. A sample policy is on the websites of the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Association of School Boards. Those required elements are as follows:

  • A definition of harassment and bullying that is consistent with the definition in the legislation (this is in the sample policy), and which includes all of the following 17 traits/characteristics: real or perceived age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical attributes, physical or mental ability or disability, ancestry, political party preference, political belief, socioeconomic status, or familial status.
  • A statement declaring harassment and bullying to be against state and school policy, and making the policy applicable to all school employees, volunteers, and students in school, on school property, or at any school function or school-sponsored activity.
  • A description of the type of behavior expected from school employees, volunteers, parents or guardians, and students relative to prevention measures, reporting, and investigation of harassment or bullying.
  • The consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who violates the policy.
  • A procedure for reporting an act of harassment or bullying, including the identification by job title of the school official responsible for ensuring that the policy is implemented, and the identification of the person or persons responsible for receiving reports of harassment or bullying.
  • A procedure for the prompt investigation of complaints, either identifying the school superintendent or the superintendent's designee as the individual responsible for conducting the investigation, including a statement that investigators will consider the totality of circumstances presented in determining whether conduct objectively constitutes harassment or bullying under this section.
  • A statement of the manner in which the policy will be publicized.

 

Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Decision Matrix

Senate File 61, which created new Iowa Code section 280.28, requires districts and nonpublic schools to collect and report harassment and bullying incidence data. The definition of harassment and bullying in the law is: Any electronic, written, verbal, or physical act or conduct toward a student which is based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student and which creates an objectively hostile school environment that meets one or more of the following conditions:

  1. Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the student's person or property.
  2. Has a substantially detrimental effect on the student's physical or mental health.
  3. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's academic performance.
  4. Has the effect of substantially interfering with the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

"Trait or characteristic of the student" includes but is not limited to age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical attributes, physical or mental ability or disability, ancestry, political party preference, political belief, socioeconomic status, or familial status

The following matrix is designed to assist school personnel determine whether an incident needs to be reported under the new law. If the answer is "yes," the report will be made on spring Basic Education Data System (BEDS).

Situation

Report?

Other remarks

1.

A group of middle school girls (all on-again, off-again friends of each other) start texting each other at school. Some of the messages turn nasty; they start calling each other "be-otch," "ho," etc. Hurt feelings escalate to a one-time shoving match in the hall between classes.

NO.

This behavior is more like "typical adolescent cruelty" that does not rise to the level of meeting any of the four conditions above in the definition.

Just because this is not an incident to report under the new law does not mean that the school does nothing. It is always appropriate for the school to look into the matter and talk to the students involved, call the parents, etc. Not having to report this on spring BEDS does not mean not taking any action. (Because this example assumes use of school time, that alone is enough to punish under most local school codes of student conduct.)

2.

Situation starts out same as #1 above, but now the girls have divided themselves in to two groups and there are frequent physical incidents between them.

YES.

This behavior has moved beyond "typical adolescent cruelty" to the point where a student has objective reason to be in "reasonable fear of harm" to her person.

The motivation would be reported as based on sex, given that the name-calling that started all this was limited to derogatory female terms.

3.

Back to the facts in #2, but this time the name-calling was gender-neutral (e.g., "jerk"), so the harassment is NOT based on sex. Again, suppose that the name-calling has escalated to frequent physical incidents between the girls.

MAYBE. If the school's local policy lists just the 17 traits or characteristics from the law without language to the effect "including but not limited to these characteristics," and if the harassment is not based on any of the 17, this is not reportable on BEDS. If the school's local policy is more broad, this is reportable because a student has objective reason to be in "reasonable fear of harm" to her person.

If reporting, the motivation would be reported as "other, unspecified."

4.

Two male elementary students, one Hispanic and one white, standing in lunch line get into an argument about who was first in line. They start shoving each other. The white student calls the Hispanic student a "wetback," and gets in the last shove. There's no prior history of issues between these two students.

NO. While the derogatory name implicates a protected characteristic (national origin), this is the type of misbehavior that can be resolved quickly by having a teacher or other school staff member step in immediately to separate the boys, make them apologize, issue a quick punishment, and school life goes on.

Make the classroom teacher(s) aware of the minor argument and ask that the teacher keep an eye on the students to make sure that this was a one-time issue.

If there are repeat performances and if continued problems seem to be based on national origin or another listed trait, a report may need to be made in the future.

5.

An elementary student frequently makes rhetorical comments to no one in particular about how she is going to "get" one or another fellow student. No specifics are ever mentioned, and there is no genuine expression of intent to harm. The student has older siblings and often "talks tough" as a means of posturing.

NO.

But, the answer changes as soon as the student starts becoming specific and seems to be targeting a specific classmate.

Generally speaking, the older the student, the less a school may assume that the student has no means by which to carry out threats. Pay attention to even rhetorical threats; talk to the student and his/her parents. Counseling may be a good option because nonspecific threats could be a first "cry for help."

6.

A student makes a specific threat to harm a school employee and has the wherewithal to carry out the threat.

NO. The answer is "no" only because school employees are not protected under the new law.

OF COURSE the school will take immediate and appropriate action to protect the employee, including calling law enforcement, getting the student isolated and searched, and calling the student's parents.

The situations above are not to be taken literally, and are usable as scenarios from which school personnel can extrapolate their own situations. Not covered below are the obvious harassment situations that must be reported and investigated. When in doubt, INVESTIGATE.

 

Open Enrollment Appeal

The State Board issued new criteria for analyzing late-filed open enrollment requests that allege repeated acts of harassment at its December 13, 2007, meeting. This was the first such appeal to the State Board following the enactment of the new antibullying/antiharassment law and its definition of bullying and harassment. Accordingly, the new criteria are as follows:

  1. The harassment must have occurred after March 1 or the student or parent is able to demonstrate that the extent of the harassment could not have been known until after March 1.
  2. The harassment must be specific electronic, written, verbal, or physical acts or conduct toward the student which created an objectively hostile school environment that meets one or more of the following conditions:
    • Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the student's person or property.
    • Has a substantially detrimental effect on the student's physical or mental health.
    • Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's academic performance.
    • Has the effect of substantially interfering with the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
  3. The evidence must show that the harassment is likely to continue despite the efforts of school officials to resolve the situation.
  4. Changing the student's school district will alleviate the situation.

A parent or guardian who files an application for open enrollment after the March 1 deadline and alleges repeated acts of harassment is entitled to a hearing before the resident school board to try to prove that the application should be granted. The new criteria should be used by local boards, school officials, and the State Board of Education.

To read the State Board's full decision, click on the following link: Open Enrollment Appeal Decision

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on April 21, 2014 at 2:57am.