Sunday, December 16, 2007

Must Schools have Anti-Bullying Policies?

Check your State laws to see whether it protects your child from bullying.

Indiana schools must have policies against bullying. Yet, some schools do not identify bullying. They use the term, “harassment.” Tippecanoe School Corporation addresses harassment in policy number 5517. West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School handbook prohibits “behavior that does physical or psychological harm to another person or urging of other students to engage in conduct.” The handbook identifies such behavior as “coercion, harassment, bullying, hazing, or other comparable conduct.” Lafayette School Corporation’s elementary school handbook has similar language.

By reducing “bullying” to “harassment,” schools ignore the problem. In reality, when children complain, schools often say, “It’s just teasing. You must learn to deal with it.” We must demand that schools stop treating bullying as a rite of passage, a part of growing up. Bullying is a serious problem.

Another problem with school policies is that victims cannot understand them nor do they know their rights to a formal complaint.

The anti-bullying complaint process must be simple. A child cannot be expected to understand Klondike Elementary School’s policy:

Harassment of a student(s) by other students or any member of the staff is incompatible with a physically and psychologically safe environment in which to learn. Harassment shall include any speech or action that creates a hostile or offensive learning environment. The Superintendent will ensure that the Student Code of Conduct contains language prohibiting any form of sexual harassment and any use of racial, religious, or ethnic verbal or physical harassment. Administrative guidelines will provide a means for a student to report harassment from a student, staff member or school visitor, to avoid embarrassment to the student and protect the confidentiality of the student when possible.

The Bully Police, a watchdog organization advocating for bullied children, recommends that policies cover certain points. Among other things, policies should:

· Use the word “bullying” and specifically prohibit it
· Not address it as a school safety issue (a reaction to Columbine-like incidents)
· Define “bullying.”
· Protect against reprisal or retaliation.
· Provide accountability.

No comments: