Is your school prepared to respond accordingly to reports of bullying and harassment? Are you prepared to investigate, stop, prevent, eliminate hostile environments, take appropriate actions and document your actions? Are your school leaders aware of the different types of bullying that may be creating hostile learning environments in your school?
Studies show for students to achieve academically, they must feel secure and comfortable in their learning environment. A recent study from the University of Virginia revealed the academic performance of students in schools with persistent bullying may suffer because students are less engaged in learning due to fears about bullying or a greater level of school disorder.
According to recent statistics, up to 33 percent of students are being bullied each year and 60 percent of teachers/staff are witnessing bullying two or more times in a month.
Let’s do the math. If you have 3,000 students, then approximately 1,000 or so students could be facing bullying issues … are you taking appropriate actions? If you have 200 teachers and 60 percent of them are witnessing bullying twice a month that could be 240 incidents a month or 2,160 incidents a school year. Are your students and teachers reporting ongoing incidents and do you have the documentation and legal-ready documentation to prove you have taken the appropriate follow-up actions?
On October 6, 2010, the OCR “Dear Colleague” letter sent to all schools clearly defined all schools who know or reasonably should know about student bullying/harassment must:
– Investigate the incident
– Take immediate action to stop the harassment
– Take action to prevent the recurrence of harassment
– Eliminate the hostile environment
– Address its effects
– Take appropriate actions to revise policies and re-train students, faculty, staff and parents
With the new school year underway, the Department of Justice and Department of Education have made it clear that the OCR requirements will be enforced. Consider that a seven-month investigation at Tehachapi Unified School District is being called a landmark case with serious and expensive consequences for school boards and administrators. On July 1, 2011, a “resolution agreement” concluded that TUSD “did not adequately investigate or otherwise respond” to claims of bullying/harassment which led to the suicide of a 13-year old student.
On July 5, 2011 the student’s mother filed a lawsuit naming the school district, the superintendent, the principal, the vice principal and four teachers, seeking compensation for wrongful death damages, medical expenses and punitive damages. Several lawsuits have been filed at a Minnesota school district after seven students committed suicide in one year and a federal investigation is pending.
School leaders across the nation have been put on notice. And because most schools are already dealing with fiscal challenges, schools cannot afford suicides, undocumented incidents, federal investigations, and lawsuits. Therefore, prevention must become a top priority and prevention is more critical now than ever before.
How is your school encouraging students and parents to proactively report bullying/harassment and ensuring that all actions taken are documented with legal due diligence to meet ongoing OCR requirements? Are your school and community leaders preventing the preventable?
Based on studies, incidents and lawsuits, Awareity, Inc. has developed an innovative prevention platform that is helping school leaders take appropriate actions and document all actions taken for compliance and legal due diligence. TIPS (Threat Assessment, Incident Management and Prevention Services) provides schools with the tools to empower students, parents, staff, faculty, community members, etc. to report suspicious incidents, warning signs, red flags, etc. TIPS also empowers safety team members to easily and securely access incident reports, share documents, set reminders and document they have taken the required and appropriate actions and responses to meet OCR guidelines.
According to bullying and suicide prevention expert, Dr. Scott Poland, “TIPS is truly the most comprehensive incident management system available for K12 schools to not only receive anonymous reports from their students and parents, but ensure all appropriate personnel are notified to connect the dots and determine the most effective response. TIPS is helping school districts proactively prevent the preventable – suicides, bullying, violence, truancy, depression and more.”