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School District Seeks Input on New Anti-Bullying Policy for Berkeley Schools

The Berkeley Unified School District has drafted a new anti-bullying policy and wants feedback from the community.

Bullying is a prevalent and ongoing issue across America, and while the act of bullying may be nothing new — the means and the focus have changed. New technologies have opened up a world of cyber bullying, and cultural shifts have made gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students a target

New problems require new solutions, which is why the Berkeley Unified School District is revising its anti-bullying policy. The first draft is now available on the district's website, with a request asking for feedback from the community. New anti-bullying policy for administrators is also available online. Both documents can be found on the right of this article, below the picture.

Back in June, to discuss what a new policy might include. The former anti-bullying policy was vague and defined bullying minimally, according to Board President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, and the board needed to adopt "something more substantive."

Parents stressed the need for more proactive intervention and faculty training, as well as better education for students on the effects of bullying. Community members also shared their own experiences of bullying online in an open town hall.

"Bullying happens," wrote one commenter about Berkeley schools. "The environment for teasing is rich and complex and way off the radar and too insidious for most staff to recognize."

Every student in Berkeley has the right to a safe and secure school environment, according to district policy. Board members hope that the new policy will help to protect that right. 

The objectives of the new anti-bullying policy for Berkeley schools include:

  • Cultivating a culture of empathy, kindness, respect, and mutual trust among students and between students and staff
  • Creating a school climate which encourages students to disclose and discuss incidents of bullying, both in their roles as victims and bystanders
  • Demonstrating commitment to address incidents of bullying by outlining the school response to any such incidents of bullying

The draft defines bullying as follows:

Bullying means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is further defined as: unwanted purposeful written, verbal, nonverbal, or physical behavior, including but not limited to any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by an adult or student, that has the potential to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment or cause long term damage; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individuals school performance or participation; is carried out repeatedly; and is often characterized by an imbalance of power.

Cyber bullying is included in the updated list of bullying behavior, along with more traditional types of bullying — such as verbal, nonverbal, physical, emotional/psychological and acts of hazing.  

The administrative regulation document includes guidelines for reporting and investigating bullying claims, including cases that involve staff, teachers or administrators. The draft also outlines intervention and disciplinary options, as well as the requirement that each school site take preventative steps to thwart bullying, including educating students, staff, teachers, counselors and administrators "about what bullying is and why it is unacceptable."

Each school must also submit a yearly report on bullying, including all incident reports, details of preventative measures, a summary of the motivations for bullying, and information about the use and effectiveness of disciplinary actions.

For information about the signs and effects of bullying, as well as ways to prevent bullying or intervene, visit stopbullying.gov.

What do you think should be included in the new anti-bullying policy? Have your children been affected by bullying? How did school officials respond? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Deborah A Washington November 07, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Must include a statement that victims will not suffer retribution or harassment if they report incidents. track number of reports with a code and link to fights logged by schools. Students involved in fights can be a form of bullying with physical fights as a means to address for students responding to initated fight.
Emily Henry November 08, 2011 at 12:19 AM
That's an interesting point, Deborah, about tracking fights — I wonder if schools already do this, and if the information is compared to bullying reports. According to stopbullying.gov, children and teenagers who are bullied are more likely to retaliate through violent means.
Heather Wood November 08, 2011 at 02:59 AM
The problem with that is that b/c they are minors, all that could be reported was that there was fight, not who was involved or any specifics -- juvenile identities are very closely guarded in particular when it may become a legal case.
BerkeleyAccountableSchools November 08, 2011 at 06:51 AM
Since at least two of the remedies involve counseling and support for the bully and his/her parents, I'd like the district to build in a check to verify that the bully does, in fact, belong at BUSD before we make that expenditure. I am not saying that all bullies are illegal out-of-district students. I am saying that when one is, we should return him or her to the district where s/he belongs and direct the resources to those students that BUSD is meant to serve. Same argument for other behaviorally challenged students. This is consistent, by the way, with current BUSD policy, according to which behavioral and attendance problems are supposed to be removed if they aren't residents of the district. Bed checks for bullies.

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