March 12-16 is Education Support Professionals Week.
Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying of Students
The Lake Washington School District strives to provide students with optimal conditions for learning by maintaining a school environment where everyone is treated with respect and no one is physically or emotionally harmed. In order to ensure respect and prevent harm, it is a violation of district policy for a student to be harassed, intimidated, or bullied by others in the school community, at school sponsored events, or when such actions create a substantial disruption to the educational process. The school community includes all students, school employees, school board members, contractors, unpaid volunteers, families, patrons, and other visitors. Students will not be harassed because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, including gender expression or identity, mental or physical disability, or other distinguishing characteristics. Any school staff who observes, overhears, or otherwise witnesses harassment, intimidation, or bullying or to whom such actions have been reported must take prompt and appropriate action to stop the harassment and to prevent its reoccurrence.
Aggressor – is a student, staff member, or other member of the school community who engages in the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of a student.
Harassment, intimidation, or bullying – is an intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act that:
- Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property;
- Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education;
- Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
- Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.
Conduct that is “substantially interfering with a student’s education” will be determined by considering a targeted student’s grades, attendance, demeanor, interaction with peers, participation in activities, and other indicators.
Conduct that may rise to the level of harassment, intimidation, and bullying may take many forms, including, but not limited to, slurs, rumors, jokes, innuendoes, demeaning comments, drawings, cartoons, pranks, ostracism, physical attacks or threats, gestures, or acts relating to an individual or group whether electronic, written, oral, or physically transmitted messages or images. There is no requirement that the targeted student actually possess the characteristic that is the basis for the harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
Incident Reporting Form – may be used by students, families, or staff to report incidents of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. See Incident Reporting Form JFD-E.
Retaliation – when an aggressor harasses, intimidates, or bullies a student who has reported incidents of bullying.
Staff – includes, but is not limited to, educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, classified staff, substitute and temporary teachers, volunteers, or paraprofessionals (both employees and contractors).
Targeted Student – is a student against whom harassment, intimidation, or bullying has allegedly been perpetrated.
Relationship to Other Laws
The district will ensure its compliance with all state laws regarding harassment, intimidation, or bullying. Nothing in this procedure prevents a student, parent/guardian, school or district from taking action to remediate harassment or discrimination based on a person’s gender or membership in a legally protected class under local, state, or federal law.
- Dissemination In each school and on the district’s website the district will prominently post information on reporting harassment, intimidation, and bullying; the name and contact information for making a report to a school administrator; and the name and contact information for the district compliance officer. The district’s policy and procedure will be available in each school in a language that families can understand. Annually, the superintendent will ensure that a statement summarizing the policy and procedure is provided in student, staff, volunteer, and parent handbooks, is available in school and district offices and/or hallways, or is posted on the district’s website.
- Education Annually students will receive age-appropriate information on the recognition and prevention of harassment, intimidation, or bullying at student orientation sessions and on other appropriate occasions. The information will include a copy of the Incident Reporting Form or a link to a Web-based form.
- Training Staff will receive annual training on the school district’s policy and procedure, including staff roles and responsibilities, how to monitor common areas, and the use of the district’s Incident Reporting Form.
- Prevention Strategies The district will implement a range of prevention strategies including individual, classroom, school, and district-level approaches.
The district compliance officer will:
- Serve as the district’s primary contact for harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
- Provide support and assistance to the principal or designee in resolving complaints.
- Receive copies of all Incident Reporting Forms, discipline Referral Forms, and letters to parents providing the outcomes of investigations.
- Be familiar with the use of the student information system. The compliance officer may use this information to identify patterns of behavior and areas of concern.
- Ensure implementation of the policy and procedure by overseeing the investigative processes, including ensuring that investigations are prompt, impartial, and thorough.
- Assess the training needs of staff and students to ensure successful implementation throughout the district, and ensure staff receive annual fall training.
- Provide the OSPI School Safety Center with notification of policy or procedure updates or changes on an annual basis.
- In cases where, despite school efforts, a targeted student experiences harassment, intimidation, or bullying that threatens the student’s health and safety, the compliance officer will facilitate a meeting between district staff and the child’s parents/guardians to develop a safety plan to protect the student.
All staff members shall intervene when witnessing or receiving reports of harassment, intimidation or bullying. Minor incidents that staff are able to resolve immediately, or incidents that do not meet the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, may require no further action under this procedure.
Informal Complaint Process
Anyone may use informal procedures to report and resolve complaints of harassment, intimidation or bullying. Informal reports may be made to any staff member. Staff will always notify complainants of their right to file a formal complaint and the process for same. Staff will also direct potential complainants to an appropriate staff member who can explain the informal and formal complaint processes and what a complainant can expect.
During the course of the informal complaint process, the district will take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end any harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
Informal remedies may include:
- An opportunity for the complainant to explain to the alleged harasser that his or her conduct is unwelcome, offensive or inappropriate, either in writing or face-to-face;
- A statement from a staff member to the alleged harasser that the alleged conduct is not appropriate and could lead to discipline if proven or repeated;
- A general public statement from an administrator in a building reviewing the district harassment, intimidation, and bullying policy without identifying the complainant;
- Developing a safety plan;
- Separating students;
- Corrective action; or
- Providing staff and/or student training
Informal complaints may become formal complaints at the request of the complainant, parent/guardian, or because the district believes the complaint needs to be more thoroughly investigated.
The district will inform the complainant and their parent/guardian how to report any subsequent problems. Additionally, the district will conduct follow-up inquiries to see if there have been any new incidents or instances of retaliation, and to promptly respond and appropriately address continuing or new problems. Follow-up inquiries will follow a timeline agreed to by the district and complainant.
Formal Complaint Process
Step 1: Filing an Incident Reporting Form
Any student who believes he or she has been the target of unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or any other person in the school community who observes or receives notice that a student has or may have been the target of unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation, or bullying, may report incidents verbally or in writing to any staff member.
In order to protect a targeted student from retaliation, a student need not reveal his identity on an Incident Reporting Form. The form may be filed anonymously, confidentially, or the student may choose to disclose his or her identity (non-confidential).
Status of Reporter
Individuals may file a report without revealing their identity. No disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor based solely on an anonymous report. Schools may identify complaint boxes or develop other methods for receiving anonymous, unsigned reports. Possible responses to an anonymous report include enhanced monitoring of specific locations at certain times of day or increased monitoring of specific students or staff.
Individuals may ask that their identities be kept secret from the accused and other students. Like anonymous reports, no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor based solely on a confidential report.
Individuals may agree to file a report non-confidentially. Complainants agreeing to make their complaint non-confidential will be informed that due process requirements may require that the district release all of the information that it has regarding the complaint to any individuals involved in the incident, but that even then, information will still be restricted to those with a need to know, both during and after the investigation. The district will, however, fully implement the anti-retaliation provision of this policy and procedure to protect complainants and witnesses.
Step 2: Receiving an Incident Reporting Form
All staff are responsible for receiving oral and written reports. Whenever possible, staff who initially receive an oral or written report of harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall attempt to resolve the incident immediately. If the incident is resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved, or if the incident does not meet the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, no further action may be necessary under this procedure.
All reports of unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation, or bullying will be recorded on a district Incident Reporting Form and submitted to the principal or designee, unless the designee is the subject of the complaint.
Step 3: Investigations of Unresolved, Severe, or Persistent Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying
All reports of unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation, or bullying will be investigated with reasonable promptness. Any student may have a trusted adult with him/her throughout the report and investigation process.
- Upon receipt of the Incident Reporting Form that alleges unresolved, severe, or persistent harassment, intimidation or bullying, the school or district designee will begin the investigation. If there is potential for clear and immediate physical harm to the complainant, the district will immediately contact law enforcement and inform the parent/guardian.
- During the course of the investigation, the district will take reasonable measures to ensure that no further incidents of harassment, intimidation, or bullying occur between the complainant and the alleged aggressor. If necessary, the district will implement a safety plan for the student(s) involved. The plan may include changing seating arrangements for the complainant and/or the alleged aggressor in the classroom, at lunch, or on the bus; identifying a staff member who will act as a safe person for the complainant; altering the alleged aggressor’s schedule and access to the complainant, and other measures.
- Within two (2) school days after receiving the Incident Reporting Form, the school designee will notify the families of the students involved that a complaint was received and direct the families to the district’s policy and procedure on harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
- In rare cases, where after consultation with the student and appropriate staff (such as a psychologist, counselor, or social worker) the district has evidence that it would threaten the health and safety of the complainant or the alleged aggressor to involve his or her parent/guardian, the district may initially refrain from contacting the parent/guardian in its investigation of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. If professional school personnel suspect that a student is subject to abuse and neglect, they must follow district policy for reporting suspected cases to Child Protective Services.
- The investigation shall include, at a minimum:
- An interview with the complainant.
- An interview with the alleged aggressor.
- A review of any previous complaints involving either the complainant or the alleged aggressor.
- Interviews with other students or staff members who may have knowledge of the alleged incident.
- The principal or designee may determine that other steps must be taken before the investigation is complete.
- The investigation will be completed as soon as practicable but generally no later than ten (10) school days from the initial complaint or report. If more time is needed to complete an investigation, the district will provide the parent/guardian and/or the student with weekly updates.
- No later than two (2) school days after the investigation has been completed and submitted to the compliance officer, the principal or designee shall respond in writing to the parent/guardian of the complainant and the alleged aggressor stating:
- The results of the investigation.
- Whether the allegations were found to be factual.
- Whether there was a violation of policy.
- The process for the complainant to file an appeal if the complainant disagrees with results.
Because of the legal requirement regarding the confidentiality of student records, the principal or designee may not be able to report specific information to the targeted student’s parent/guardian about any disciplinary action taken unless it involves a directive that the targeted student must be aware of in order to report violations.
If a district chooses to contact the parent/guardian by letter, the letter will be mailed to the parent/guardian of the complainant and alleged aggressor by United States postal service with return receipt requested unless it is determined, after consultation with the student and appropriate staff (psychologist, counselor, social worker) that it could endanger the complainant or the alleged aggressor to involve his or her family. If professional school personnel suspect that a student is subject to abuse or neglect, as mandatory reporters they must follow district policy for reporting suspected cases to Child Protective Services.
If the incident is unable to be resolved at the school level, the principal or designee shall request assistance from the district.
Step 4: Corrective Measures for the Aggressor
After completion of the investigation, the school or district designee will institute any corrective measures necessary. Corrective measures will be instituted as quickly as possible, but in no event more than five (5) school days after contact has been made to the families or guardians regarding the outcome of the investigation. Corrective measures that involve student discipline will be implemented according to district policy JG—Student Discipline. If the accused aggressor is appealing the imposition of discipline, the district may be prevented by due process considerations or a lawful order from imposing the discipline until the appeal process is concluded.
In an investigation, if a principal or principal’s designee found that a student knowingly made a false allegation of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, that student may be subject to corrective measures, including discipline.
Step 5: Targeted Student’s Right to Appeal
- If the complainant or parent/guardian is dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, they may appeal to the superintendent or his or her designee by filing a written notice of appeal within five (5) school days of receiving the written decision. The superintendent or his or her designee will review the investigative report and issue a written decision on the merits of the appeal within five (5) school days of receiving the notice of appeal.
- If the targeted student remains dissatisfied after the initial appeal to the superintendent, the student may appeal to the school board by filing a written notice of appeal with the secretary of the school board on or before the fifth (5th) school day following the date upon which the complainant received the superintendent’s written decision.
- An appeal before the school board must be heard on or before the tenth (10th) school day following the filing of the written notice of appeal to the school board. The school board will review the record and render a written decision on the merits of the appeal on or before the fifth (5th) school day following the termination of the hearing, and shall provide a copy to all parties involved. The board decision will be the final district decision.
Step 6: Discipline/Corrective Action
The district will take prompt and equitable corrective measures within its authority on findings of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. Depending on the severity of the conduct, corrective measures may include counseling, education, discipline, and/or referral to law enforcement.
Corrective measures for a student who commits an act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying will be varied and graded according to the nature of the behavior, the developmental age of the student, or the student’s history of problem behaviors and performance. Corrective measures that involve student discipline will be implemented according to district policy JG—Student Discipline.
If the conduct was of a public nature or involved groups of students or bystanders, the district should strongly consider school wide training or other activities to address the incident.
If staff have been found to be in violation of this policy and procedure, the district may impose employment disciplinary action, up to and including termination. If a certificated educator is found to have committed a violation of WAC 181-87, commonly called the Code of Conduct for Professional Educators, OSPI’s Office of Professional Practices may propose disciplinary action on a certificate, up to and including revocation. Contractor violations of this policy may include the loss of contracts.
Step 7: Support for the Targeted Student
Persons found to have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, or bullying will have appropriate district support services made available to them, and the adverse impact of the harassment on the student shall be addressed and remedied as appropriate.
No school employee, student, or volunteer may engage in reprisal or retaliation against a targeted student, witness, or other person who brings forward information about an alleged act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. Retaliation is prohibited and will result in appropriate discipline.
Students and families should use the district’s complaint and appeal procedures as a first response to allegations of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. However, nothing in this procedure prevents a student, parent/guardian, school, or district from taking action to remediate discrimination or harassment based on a person’s membership in a legally protected class under local, state or federal law. A harassment, intimidation, or bullying complaint may also be reported to appropriate state or federal agency.
Other District Policies and Procedures
Nothing in this policy or procedure is intended to prohibit discipline or remedial action for inappropriate behaviors that do not rise to the level of harassment, intimidation, or bullying as defined herein, but which are, or may be, prohibited by other district or school rules.