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I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.








Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bullying in Schools: What We're Supposed to do When a Report of Bullying is Made...



The approach to managing and controlling incidents of bullying/harassment on Florida's school campuses has become very prescriptive with the passage of the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act in 2008.  This law's passage gave Florida some of the toughest sanctions against bullying and harassment in schools in the nation.  

Our school board rules regarding Bullying mirror the statute.

But a law is useless if it is not enforced with fidelity.

I have concerns that our district may not be adhering to this law and the associated school board rules regarding the way these incidents are handled once a bullying complaint has been made.  I've seen incidents, including one that occurred in one of our district's middle schools on December 2, 2014, for which I do not have confidence the rule was followed.  The classroom teacher who knows the alleged bully and his victims and had taught them all year wrote that the infraction was bullying, and she was not going to tolerate it.  She wrote "Bullying" twice on the referral.  Did we follow our school board rule?  I have requested the investigative report to figure out if we did.

I'm zeroing in on this and I intend to make it my mission to ensure we are following this law and these rules.

Read the complete chapter 7.18 here, or see an excerpt of the investigative language from 7.18 below

(From Chapter 7 of the School Board Rules)

"C. Any written or oral reporting of an act of bullying or harassment shall be considered
an official means of reporting such act(s). Reports may be made anonymously, but
formal disciplinary action may not be based solely upon an anonymous report.

(4) The investigation of a reported act of bullying or harassment is deemed to be a school-related
activity and begins with a report of such an act:

A. The principal or designee will select a designee(s), employed by the school, trained
in investigative procedures to initiate the investigation. The designee(s) may not be
the accused perpetrator (harasser or bully) or victim.

B. Documented interviews of the victim, alleged perpetrator, and witnesses shall be
conducted privately, separately, and are confidential. Each individual (victim,
alleged perpetrator, and witnesses) will be interviewed separately and at no time
will the alleged perpetrator and victim be interviewed together.

C. The investigator shall collect and evaluate the facts including but not limited to
1. description of incident(s) including nature of the behavior;
2. context in which the alleged incident(s) occurred, etc.;
3. how often the conduct occurred;
4. whether there were past incidents or past continuing patterns of behavior;
5. the relationship between the parties involved;
6. the characteristics of parties involved (i.e., grade, age, etc.);
7. the identity and number of individuals who participated in bullying or
harassing behavior;
8. where the alleged incident(s) occurred;
9. whether the conduct adversely affected the student’s education or
educational environment;
10. whether the alleged victim felt or perceived an imbalance of power as a
result of the reported incident; and
11. the date, time, and method in which the parent(s)/guardian(s) of all parties
involved were contacted.

(5) Whether a particular action or incident constitutes a violation of this policy requires a
determination based on all the facts and surrounding circumstances and includes
A. recommended remedial steps necessary to stop the bullying and/or harassing
behavior; and

B. a written final report to the principal.

(6) A maximum of ten (10) school days shall be the limit for the initial filing of incidents and
completion of the investigative procedural steps. The highest level of confidentiality

possible will be upheld regarding the submission of a complaint or a report of bullying
and/or harassment, and the investigative procedures that follow.

(7) The process to investigate whether a reported act of bullying or harassment is within the
scope of the District and, if not, the process for referral of such an act to the appropriate
jurisdiction:
A. A principal or designee will assign a designee(s) trained in investigative procedures
to initiate an investigation of whether an act of bullying or harassment is within the
scope of the District.
B. The trained designee(s) will provide a report on results of investigation with
recommendations for the principal to make a determination if an act of bullying or
harassment falls within the scope of the District.
1. If it is within the scope of the District, move to Procedures for Investigating
Bullying and/or Harassment.
2. If it is outside the scope of the District, and determined a criminal act, refer
to appropriate law enforcement.
3. If it is outside the scope of the District, and determined not a criminal act,
inform parent(s)/guardian(s) of all students involved.
(8) Procedure for providing immediate notification to the parent(s)/guardian(s) of a victim of
bullying or harassment and the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the perpetrator of an act of bullying
or harassment as well as notification to all local agencies where criminal charges may be
pursued against the perpetrator:
A. The principal, or designee, shall promptly report via telephone, personal
conference, and/or in writing, the occurrence of any incident of bullying or
harassment as defined by this policy to the parent(s)/guardian(s) of all students
involved on the same day an investigation of the incident(s) has been initiated.
B. Notification must be consistent with the student privacy rights under the applicable
provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

(9) If the bullying incident results in the perpetrator being charged with a crime, the principal,
or designee, shall by telephone or in writing by first class mail, inform parent(s)/guardian(s)
of the victim(s) involved in the bullying incident about the Unsafe School Choice Option
(No Child Left Behind, Title IX, Part E, Subpart 2, Section 9532) that states “...a student
who becomes a victim of a violent criminal offense, as determined by State law, while in
or on the grounds of a public elementary school or secondary school that the student
attends, be allowed to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary school within
the local educational agency, including a public charter school.”

(10) Once the investigation has been completed and it has been determined that criminal charges
may be pursued against the perpetrator, all appropriate local law enforcement agencies will
be notified by telephone and/or in writing.

(11) Procedure to refer victims and perpetrators of bullying or harassment for counseling:
A. A teacher or parent(s)/guardian(s) may request informal consultation with school
staff (specialty staff, e.g., school counselor, school psychologist, etc.) to determine
the severity of concern and appropriate steps to address the concern in any bullying
incident (the involved students’ parent(s)/guardian(s) may be included).
B. School personnel or the parent(s)/guardian(s) may refer students to the school
intervention team (or equivalent school-based team with a problem-solving focus)
for consideration of appropriate services. (Parent(s)/guardian(s) involvement is
required at this point.)
C. If a formal discipline report or formal complaint is made, the principal or designee
must refer the student(s) to the school intervention team for determination of
counseling support and interventions. (Parent(s)/guardian(s) involvement is
required at this point.)
D. The intervention team may determine appropriate intervention and assistance that
includes:
1. Counseling and support to address the needs of the victims of bullying or
harassment;
2. research-based counseling/interventions to address the behavior of the
students who bully and harass others (e.g., empathy training, anger
management); or

3. research-based counseling/interventions, which include assistance and
support, provided to parent(s)/guardian(s), if deemed necessary or
appropriate.

(12) Procedure for including incidents of bullying or harassment in the school’s report of data
concerning School Safety and Discipline Data required under Section 1006.09(6), F.S.
A. The report shall include each incident of bullying or harassment and the resulting
consequences, including discipline and referrals. The report shall include, in a
separate section, each reported incident of bullying or harassment that does not
meet the criteria of a prohibited act under this section with recommendations
regarding such incidents:
1. The District will utilize Florida’s School Environmental Safety Incident
Reporting (SESIR) Statewide Report on School Safety and Discipline Data,
which includes bullying/harassment as an incident code as well as bullyingrelated
as a related element code. The SESIR definition of
bullying/harassment is unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical
behavior, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by
an adult or student that is severe or pervasive enough to create an
intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment, cause
discomfort or humiliation, or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s
school performance or participation.
2. If a bullying and/or harassment incident occurs then it will be reported in
SESIR with the bullying/harassment code. If the bullying/harassment
results in any of the following SESIR incidents the incident will be coded
appropriately using the relevant incident code AND the related element
code entitled bullying-related code. Those incidents are:
a. alcohol
b. arson
c. battery
d. breaking and entering
e. disruption on campus
f. drugs
g. fighting
h. homicide
i. kidnapping
j. larceny/theft
k. robbery
l. sexual battery
m. sexual harassment
n. sexual offenses
o. threat/intimidation
p. tobacco
q. trespassing
r. vandalism
s. weapons possession
t. other major (other major incidents that do not fit within the other
definitions

 (13) Discipline and referral data will be recorded in Student Discipline/Referral Action Report
and Automated Student Information System.

(14) The District will provide bullying incident, discipline, and referral data to the Florida
Department of Education in the format requested, through Survey 5 from Education
Information and Accountability Services, and at designated dates provided by the
Department.

(15) Procedure for providing instruction to students, parent(s)/guardian(s), teachers, school
administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and
responding to bullying or harassment:
A. The District shall endeavor to ensure that schools sustain healthy, positive, and safe
learning environments for all students. It is important to change the social climate
of the school and the social norms with regards to bullying. This requires the efforts
of everyone in the school environment – teachers, administrators, counselors,
school nurses, other non-teaching staff (such as bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria
workers, and/or school librarians), parent(s)/guardian(s), and students.
B. Students, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers
shall be given instruction at a minimum on an annual basis on the District's Policy
and Regulations against bullying and harassment. Instruction on the District's
Policy and Regulations against bullying and harassment shall be offered to
parent(s)/guardian(s) and school volunteers at least annually. The instruction shall
include evidence-based methods of preventing bullying and harassment, as well as
how to effectively identify and respond to bullying in schools.

 (16) Procedure for regularly reporting to a victim’s parent(s)/guardian(s) the actions taken to
protect the victim:

A. The principal or designee shall by telephone and/or in writing report the occurrence
of any incident of bullying as defined by this policy to the parent(s)/guardian(s) of
all students involved on the same day an investigation of the incident has been
initiated. According to the level of infraction, parent(s)/guardian(s) will be notified
by telephone and/or writing of actions being taken to protect the child; the
frequency of notification will depend on the seriousness of the bullying or
harassment incident. Notification must be consistent with the student privacy rights
under the applicable provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
of 1974 (FERPA).

(17) Procedure for publicizing the policy, which must include its publication in the School
District of Escambia County Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, required under
Section 1006.07(2), F.S., and in all employee handbooks:
A. At the beginning of each school year, the Superintendent or designee shall, in
writing, inform school staff, parent(s)/guardian(s), or other persons responsible for
the welfare of a student of the District’s student safety and violence prevention
policy.
B. Each district school shall provide notice to students and staff of this policy through
appropriate references in the School District of Escambia County Student Rights
and Responsibilities Handbook and employee handbooks, and/or through other
reasonable means. The Superintendent shall also make all contractors contracting
with the District aware of this policy.
(18) Each school principal shall develop an annual process for discussing the District’s policy
on bullying and harassment with students in a student assembly or other reasonable format.
Reminders of the policy and bullying prevention messages such as posters and signs will

be displayed around each school and on the District school buses"

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