Monday, September 21, 2009

The Arc of NC: Legislation 2009-Information You Can Use

Today we begin our series on legislation that passed in 2009 and how you as an advocate, parent, provider or supporter can use the legislation effectively.

We begin today with the School Violence Prevention Act.

Legislation 2009 – Information You Can Use
School Violence Prevention Act

History:

This bill establishes clear definitions of bullying and harassment and requires each public school district to adopt policies and procedures for dealing with incidents when they occur. The bill includes an enumerated list of categories/characteristics that, real or perceived, have been statistically shown to make students, teachers and staff more likely targets of school violence, including verbal, social and emotional bullying as well as physical harassment, threats, and beatings.

The governor signed this bill into law on June 23, 2009.

How this law defines bullying behavior and what this law requires of local school administrative units:

The School Violence Prevention Law defines “bullying or harassing behavior” as any pattern of gestures or written, electronic, or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, or on a school bus.

Bullying or harassing behavior is a behavior that
(1) Places a student or school employee in actual and reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property; or
(2) Creates or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student's educational performance, opportunities, or benefits. For purposes of this section, "hostile environment" means that the victim subjectively views the conduct as bullying or harassing behavior and the conduct is objectively severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would agree that it is bullying or harassing behavior.

This law goes on to state that “bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

The enumerated list reflects the findings of numerous studies that point to certain populations of individuals being more vulnerable to bullying or harassing behavior.

The law does require each local school administrative unit to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying or harassing behavior before December 31, 2009. This policy must contain the following components. The local school administrative unit can go beyond the minimum policy requirements set out by this law.

(1) A statement prohibiting bullying or harassing behavior.
(2) A definition of bullying or harassing behavior no less inclusive than that set forth in this Article.
(3) A description of the type of behavior expected for each student and school
employee.
(4) Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who commits an
act of bullying or harassment.
(5) A procedure for reporting an act of bullying or harassment, including a
provision that permits a person to report such an act anonymously. This shall
not be construed to permit formal disciplinary action solely on the basis of
an anonymous report.
(6) A procedure for prompt investigation of reports of serious violations and
complaints of any act of bullying or harassment, identifying either the
principal or the principal's designee as the person responsible for the
investigation.
(7) A statement that prohibits reprisal or retaliation against any person who
reports an act of bullying or harassment, and the consequence and
appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in reprisal or
retaliation.
(8) A statement of how the policy is to be disseminated and publicized,
including notice that the policy applies to participation in school-sponsored
functions.

The School Violence Prevention law also requires that the local policy appear in any school publication that “states the rules, procedures and standard of conduct for schools within the school unit and in all student and school employee handbooks”. The policy for anti-bullying and anti-harassing behavior is also mandated as part of the employee- training program. Schools must also develop and implement methods and strategies for creating environments that promote safe environments free of bullying or harassing behavior.

What You Can Do To Make This Law Effective:

1. Check to see if your child’s school currently has a policy regarding bullying and harassing behavior and make sure it is as comprehensive as the new law outlines.

2. If your school does not have a policy in place, contact your school administrator and educate them on the law using the information in this handout. Ask your school administrator when your local school board plans to create and approve their policy that will protect all children from bullying and harassing behavior.

3. Talk to your child’s teacher to see if there are currently any programs in your school that educate children on how to deal with bullying or harassing behavior or any programs that teach children about creating a safe environment that is free of bullying and harassing behavior. If there are no programs in place, encourage your teacher to start that discussion with his/her peers and administrators.

4. If your child is being bullied or harassed, use this law to educate your child’s teacher or administrator that they need to take action to stop the bullying or harassment.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I would like to add that there is a Conference on Bullying coming up on October 24th in Chapel Hill, NC with 2 internationally know speakers whose expertise is agressive behavior and bullying. Teacher, school administrators and parents should attend to learn why school anti-bullying programs don't work and what they need to do to implement effective programs. visit http://ncpsychoanalysis.org/ps-ncconference.htm or www.peacefulschollsnc.org for more information.