From time to time, we here at the Kitsap Sun get calls from parents concerned about bullying at their children’s school. On Sunday, we’ll run the first of a two-part series on bullying in schools. Day one is focused on how parents can best advocate for their children when bullying happens. On Tuesday (our regular Education Spotlight day), we will follow up with a look at why middle schools are often a hot bed of conflict waiting to happen.
Meanwhile, here are the nuts and bolts of student rights, school responsibilities and what parents should know about helping their student deal with bullying at school.
This information comes from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI does not have authority to enforce local rules except in cases involving sexual discrimination, special education disputes and complaints of misconduct against a school district employee.
Each school district is required by RCW 28A.300.285 to have a policy that prohibits the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any student. Schools must share this policy with parents or guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees. Districts post policies and procedures on their website and in parent handbooks.
How do I report suspected bullying?
1. Contact your child’s school (or transportation department if the incident happens on the bus). Fill out an incident form, which should be available at the school or on the district’s website. The school is required to conduct an investigation.
2. Anyone — students, parents, staff — can report suspected bullying. Students may submit the report asking for confidentiality, meaning the staff will not disclose the name of the reporting student to the accused student. Anonymous reports also are accepted. Staff cannot issue disciplinary consequences for anonymous reports, but they may alert staff to an existing problem.
3. If the bullying act was particularly vicious and the bully seriously injured your child or caused significant harm to your child’s property, the bully may be guilty of malicious harassment. Contact the police if you suspect malicious harassment. In some cases, the schools will make a police report on your child’s behalf.
4. If you feel the school has not adequately addressed the issues, file a written complaint with the district’s compliance officer, who is an administrator appointed by OSPI to over see discipline. Next up the chain of command would be the superintendent.
5. If you still feel that district has not adequately addressed the issues, you may file a complaint with a school board member. Most school boards do not permit discussion of individual discipline cases during public meetings.
6. If you still feel that your concerns have not been addressed, you may contact your Educational Service District Superintendent. Kitsap County is served by Olympic Educational Service District 114, (360) 479-0993.
7. For further help and guidance, contact one of the agencies listed below.
Washington State Human
Addresses bullying based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender expression, sensory, mental, or physical disability). The Human Rights Commission has staff throughout the state who able to meet with you and investigate the bullying complaint.
State Office of the Education Ombudsman
Helps with parent-school conflicts with regionally sited investigators: (866) 297-2597.
Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Addresses complaints based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age and has a regional office in Seattle: (206) 607-1600.
Addresses homophobia and harassment in school based on real or perceived sexual orientation: (877) 723-3723.
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Has regional offices, and the national PTA provides guidance on bullying.
An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides conciliation services to help prevent and resolve racial and ethnic conflict. Contact Sandra Blair, Conciliation Specialist, Northwest Regional Office: (206) 220-6704.
Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Safety Center, http://www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/BullyingHarassment/FactSheet.aspx
More resources for parents
Committee for Children, parents guide to support children in reporting bullying
Committee for Children, parents guide to cyberbullying
Stop Bullying, federal public service site
Source: Bremerton School District, http://www.bremertonschools.org
Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter