Skip to Content

Bullying and Harassment

Contact(s)

In 2007, the Iowa Legislature enacted legislation, now codified as Iowa Code section 280.28, requiring all school districts and accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa to have anti-harassment/anti-bullying policies, to make complaint forms available to targets of bullying or harassment, to put investigative procedures into place, and to collect and report data regarding incidents of bullying and harassment.

This law has been incorporated into the accreditation rules adopted by the State Board of Education as rule in 281--Iowa Administrative Code 12.3(13). Failure of a school board to adopt a policy that is in compliance with the rule below subjects the district or accredited nonpublic school to removal of accreditation. The Department also has drafted a sample policy and forms for districts andschools to use on the Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment webpage.

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:

  • 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. (Iowa Code section 280.28)

"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.

A Note on Cyberbullying
The new law includes electronic means of bullying and harassment. There must be a close connection – a nexus – to school for school officials to be able to address it. This should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

New Data Collection System for Bullying/Harassment Opens
The Iowa Department of Education is committed to partnering and supporting schools in providing safe and civil learning environments, necessary for all students to succeed. Towards that end, the Department announced the opening of the new data collection system in August for bullying and harassment reports for all public and accredited non-public schools in Iowa.

Bullying and harassment data reporting is now a separate application on Ed-Info. Access to Ed-Info is provided in each district through your local EdInfo security administrator. Bullying and harassment data is no longer be collected through the Anti-Bullying/Harassment form in Spring BEDS.
Data input in the new reporting system is for the 2012-2013 school year. The first deadline is Dec. 15, but schools are encouraged to enter data as incidents are reported. A reminder to enter data or verify that there have been no incidents to report will be sent to school districts in December if no data has been entered. The final deadlines to enter and certify data is July 15, 2013.

When incidents need to be reported
Many questions have been raised regarding which incidents should be reported and which do not need to be reported. Always report all incidents that meet the criteria based on the targeted student’s perception of the incident.  If the student’s perception of the incident appears to meet the definition of bullying or harassment (above), a written complaint is then initiated and the incident is investigated and reported as unfounded or founded.

Schools need to report incidents as founded or unfounded if the initial report (however it is communicated) appears to meet the definition before the incident is investigated. The student, a parent, or school official can report an incident of bullying on the student’s behalf, assuming the student’s perception meets the definition of bullying/harassment. The ability for a parent or school official to report on the student’s behalf is especially important in cases of bullying and harassment of younger children and individuals with disabilities.

Common Questions Regarding Data Reporting
With any new reporting requirements, there are questions. You may view ongoing Q & A on the Anti Bullying Anti Harassment webpage.  For your convenience, some of the most frequently asked questions are listed below:

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Why is the student(s) state ID number requested in the reporting system?
A: The new Bullying Application is collecting each student’s State Student ID so that the Department can reduce reporting burdens on schools and verify the accuracy of the data collected. This allows the Department to only collect pertinent data in each data collection and to reduce redundant data requests, thus easing the data burden on districts. With the State Student ID, we are able to link the bullying data set to other data sets to obtain student demographic, behavior, and programming data.

Q. What are the deadlines for entering data?
A. The first deadline is Dec. 15. A reminder will be sent via email on Dec. 1. The final deadline for reporting and certifying the data is July 15, 2013. Schools are encouraged to enter data as often as possible. This allows districts to pull up reports and use data to inform decisions about programming and intervention needs in your building and district.

Q. I saw a due date on the reporting site of 10/15/2012. Is that accurate?
A. No. We have adjusted that date to Dec. 15. Reminder: Schools are encouraged to enter data as often as possible.

Q. We have had a significant number of administrative changes. How do we get an ID/password for building principals?
A. School superintendents or their designees will determine who accesses and inputs data in the reporting system.

Q.  I am having difficulty getting the system to take my data. What am I doing wrong?
A.  Remember to always hit update to tell the system to take the data. For additional guidance, please view the webinar on our webpage for bullying and harassment

Q. Can I change an entry after submitting it?
A. Yes.

Q. Do we report every time a student is called a name?
A. No, you report all incidents that meet the criteria for bullying/harassment based on the targeted student’s perception of the incident. Ask yourself if the student’s perception of the incident appears to meet the definition of bullying or harassment. If the answer is yes, then this is written down and reported to the state. Of course, an investigation follows and that is where the determination of founded or unfounded is made. (See slides 9-11 in the PowerPoint accompanying the recorded webinar.)

Q. Are there plans to streamline reporting systems so that data does not have to be re-entered in multiple reporting systems, such as Power School and Infinite Campus?
A. This is not our final solution to data collection and analysis on bullying and harassment, but it is a step in the right direction. We hope to make this part of a larger statewide data system within the next two years. 

For questions call Penny Bisignano at 515-725-2142 or penny.bisignano@iowa.gov, or Barb Anderson at 515-664-6732 or barb.anderson@iowa.gov.

AEA Support Network for Bullying and Harassment Prevention Intervention
Iowa AEAs and some school districts have Trained Specialists in bullying prevention and intervention. Each staff member listed here has been trained in Olweus Bullying Prevention Programming. Olweus is an evidence-based program implemented in over a dozen countries across the world and over 6,000 schools in the United States.

Contact a trainer from the list in the link below for support and information or contact the Department’s Olweus state coordinator Penny Bisignano at 515-725-2142 or penny.bisignano@iowa.gov. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You will also find other supports and information at AEA websites across the state. You can read more about bullying and programming and materials at http://www.clemson.edu/olweus/.

AEA Olweus Trainers

Open Enrollment Appeals
Five years ago, the State Board of Education issued criteria for analyzing late-filed open-enrollment requests that allege repeated acts of harassment.  This was the first such appeal to the State Board following the enactment of the new anti-bullying/anti-harassment law and its definition of bullying and harassment.

Accordingly, all four of the following criteria must be met:

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:  http://www.educateiowa.gov/images/stories/appeals/janett.pdf

The following are two decisions on open enrollment appeals involving repeated acts of harassment where the decisions of the local boards were upheld:

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on April 19, 2014 at 8:30pm.