On October 9, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bills (“AB”) 9 and 1156 which, among other things, clarify and expand the definition of bullying, require school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying and require that bullying victims be given priority for interdistrict transfers. Both laws go into effect on July 1, 2012.
AB 9, also known as Seth’s Law, is named after 13-year-old Seth Walsh who tragically took his own life in 2010 after years of harassment based on his sexual orientation and gender expression. AB 9 amends and adds to the Safe Place to Learn Act by requiring school districts to adopt policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics. AB 9 also requires that existing complaint investigation processes include complaints of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying, as well as a timeline to investigate such incidents and an appeal process. Under AB 9, school personnel who witness such acts must take immediate steps to intervene, when safe to do so. Additionally, AB 9 requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to post on his/her Internet web site, and provide to each school district, an annually updated list of statewide resources that provide support to student victims of school-based discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
AB 1156 amends Education Code sections 32261, 32282, 32283, 46600 and 48900, and encourages the inclusion of polices and procedures aimed at the prevention of bullying in comprehensive school safety plans. Additionally, at the request of a student’s legal guardian, AB 1156 requires that student bullying victims be given priority for interdistrict transfers under existing interdistrict attendance agreements or, in the absence of an agreement, be given additional consideration for the creation of an interdistrict attendance agreement should those victims choose to pursue an interdistrict transfer. Contingent upon the availability of funds in the annual budget, AB 1156 also requires the California Department of Justice and the State Department of Education to contract with professional trainers to coordinate statewide bullying prevention training for school districts and personnel.
AB 1156 also clarifies the definition of bullying as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, that has the effect of or can reasonably be predicted to have the effect of:
placing a reasonable pupil in fear of harm to his or her person or property;
causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health;
causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance; or
causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
AB 9 and 1156 reflect continuing statewide and nationwide efforts to prevent bullying in public schools. These bills are designed to provide school administrators with more tools to intervene in circumstances where student bullying has occurred or may occur. The Legislature has also made an effort to provide more support to bullying victims by instituting bullying complaint procedures, providing annually updated support resources and facilitating interdistrict transfers for bullying victims that choose to pursue those transfers.
AEA fully supports AB 9 as school policy. For a more comprehensive view of school policy and procedures in regard to bullying and harassment, please refer to the the Parent/Student Handbook.
*Procedures and timelines in cases of bullying or harassment are stated below:
Bullying means: systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students, employees, or visitors. It is further defined as unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical behavior, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by a student or adult, 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; and may involve but is not limited to: Teasing, Social Exclusion, Threat, Intimidation, Stalking, Cyber Bullying, Physical violence, Theft, Sexual, Religious, or Racial Harassment, Public humiliation, Cyber- Stalking
Bullying also encompasses: retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment. Reporting an act of bullying or harassment that is not made in good faith is considered retaliation. Harassment by an individual or group with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause emotional or physical harm to a student or school employee through incitement or coercion, accessing or knowingly and willingly causing or providing access to data or computer software through a computer, computer system, or computer network within the scope of the school system, or acting in a manner that has an effect substantially similar to the effect of bullying or harassment.
Bullying may be limited to a single incident. However, in most cases, bullying is characterized by repeated harmful actions on the part of the bully(ies). An individual has the legal right to report an incident(s) of bullying without fear of reprisal or retaliation at any time.
Examples or types of bullying include, but are not limited to:
physical – punching, shoving, poking, strangling, hair-pulling, beating, biting or excessive tickling
verbal – hurtful name-calling, teasing or gossip
emotional/psychological – rejecting, terrorizing, extorting, defaming, humiliating, blackmailing, rating/ranking of personal characteristics such as: race, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or through manipulating friendships, isolating or ostracizing others or applying undue peer pressure
Cyber Stalking means: to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
Retaliation is defined in the dictionary as meaning “to pay back (an injury) in kind.” When a person is accused of having engaged in an inappropriate fashion, especially bullying, the common reaction of that person is to be angry and want to pay the victim back (retaliate).
Confidentiality must be maintained as much as possible during any harassment or bullying investigations. Confidentiality is maintained when the identity of the people involved or the circumstances surrounding the incident are kept private. For example, you do not maintain confidentiality if you tell your friends that John Doe or Jane Doe harassed you. Retaliation is defined in the dictionary as meaning “to pay back (an injury) in kind.” When a person is alleged to have engaged in any harassment, the common reaction of that person is to be angry and want to pay him or her back (retaliate). Any form of retaliation is a Level Two Offense (see Student/Parent Handbook).
Some examples of retaliations are:
• attempting to discuss the matter in any way, while it is under investigation • spreading rumors or ostracizing a student • following the person • becoming physical in any way
• destroying property • using the telephone or other electronic or written form of communication to retaliate in any way
If You Are the Victim of Bullying:
• Clearly tell the “bully(ies)” to stop.
• Don’t ignore the incident; immediately report the incident to someone at school or seek
mediation at school, and tell your parent(s) /guardian(s)
• If the bullying continues after you have clearly told the bully(ies) to stop, make a written record of the incident including date, time, witness or witnesses and parties involved in the incident.
• Report the incident immediately to an adult who has authority over the bully(ies); for example: teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal, or principal.
• Avoid being alone with the person(s) who have attempted to bully you in the past.
• Don’t think that if you ignore the problem that it will just go away
To Minimize the Risk of Being Accused of Bullying
• Keep your hands to yourself
• Remember that NO one has a right to harm another person in any way.
• Think before you speak
• Immediately apologize if you accidentally say or do something that has made another person feel oppressed
• Report all incidents of bullying behavior you have witnessed to appropriate school personnel
• Touch anyone without his or her permission and especially in an inappropriate way
• Keep interacting with a person after he or she has perceived your behavior toward him or her as being “inappropriate” and has clearly told you to “stop”
• Make remarks that may cause another person to feel “oppressed” (stressful, scared, intimidated)
*from Student/Parent Handbook