Board Policy on Bullying & Harassment

Board Policy 5131.2

San Francisco Unified School District and County Office of Education

Board Policy 5131.2

Bullying and Harassment

This Board Policy applies to the San Francisco Unified School District and the County Office of Education.

The Governing Board recognizes the harmful effects of bullying and harassment on student  well-being, learning and school attendance and desires to provide a welcoming, safe, and supportive school environment that protect students from physical and emotional harm. District employees shall establish student safety as a high priority and shall not tolerate bullying or harassment of any student. No individual or group shall, through physical, written, verbal, visual, or other means, harass, sexually harass, threaten, intimidate, cyberbully, cause bodily injury to, or engage in hate-motivated behavior against any student or school personnel, or retaliate against them for filing a complaint or participating in the complaint resolution process. Strategies for addressing bullying and harassment in District schools shall be developed with involvement of key stakeholders, including students, guardians, and staff, and shall  be incorporated into the comprehensive safety plan, and, to the extent possible, into the local control and accountability plan, and other applicable District and school plans. Bullying is an aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power between individuals with the intent to cause emotional or physical harm. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social/relational and may involve a single severe act or repetition or potential repetition of a deliberate act. Bullying includes, but is not limited to, any act described in Education Code 48900(r). Bullying or harassment can be based on a protected class, as defined in BP 1312.3, BP 5145.9 and R 5131.2, or can be based on other unknown reasons.  As appropriate, the Superintendent or designee may collaborate with law enforcement, courts, social services, mental health services, other agencies, and community organizations in the development and implementation of joint strategies to promote safety in schools and the community and to provide services for alleged targets and perpetrators of bullying. Recognizing that bullying and harassing behavior can also be hate-motivated behavior, the Superintendent's designee shall develop effective prevention strategies and response plans, providing assistance to students affected by hate-motivated behavior, and/or educating students who have perpetrated hate-motivated acts as set forth in BP 5145.9.

Cyberbullying/Cyber Harassment

Cyberbullying includes the creation or transmission of harassing communications, direct threats, or other harmful texts, sounds, or images, which may be shared, sent or posted publicly. Like any bullying or harassing conduct, cyberbullying may be based on protected class. Cyberbullying may include, but is not limited to, personal or private information that causes humiliation, false or negative information to discredit or disparage, or threats of physical harm Cyberbullying also includes breaking into another person's electronic account and assuming that person's identity in order to damage that person's reputation. When the circumstances involve cyberbullying, individuals with information about the activity shall be encouraged to save and print any electronic or digital messages that they feel constitute cyberbullying and to notify a teacher, the principal, or other employee so that the matter may be investigated. When a student uses social networking site or service to bully or harass another student, the Superintendent or designee may file a request with the networking site or service to suspend the privileges of the student and to have material removed. School site staff who learn of Cyberbullying must immediately report to an administrator.

If the administrators learn of off-campus Cyberbullying that disrupts the educational environment, they must seek to intervene as soon as possible in order to prevent the Cyberbullying from continuing. If the Cyberbullying is found to have been done outside of school hours, but is impacting a student's safe learning environment, the school can discipline the student who engaged in the Cyberbullying.

Bullying Prevention

To the extent possible, District schools shall focus on the prevention of bullying by establishing clear rules for student conduct and implementing strategies to promote a positive, collaborative school climate. Students shall be informed, through student handbooks, curriculum, and other appropriate means, of District and school rules related to bullying, mechanisms available for reporting incidents or threats, and the consequences for engaging in bullying. Such instruction shall also educate students about the negative impact of bullying, discrimination, intimidation, and harassment based on actual or perceived immigration status, religious beliefs and customs, or any other individual bias or prejudice. As appropriate, the District shall provide students with instruction, in the classroom or other educational settings, that promotes social-emotional learning, effective communication and conflict resolution skills, social skills, character/values education, respect for cultural and individual differences, self-esteem development, assertiveness skills, digital and media literacy skills and appropriate online behavior. The District shall notify parents and guardians, through student and family handbooks, of their children’s right to a free public education, regardless of immigration status, religious beliefs, or other protected class status. This information shall include the “Know Your Rights” immigration enforcement information established by the Attorney General.  The district shall also educate students about the negative impact of bullying, discrimination, intimidation, and harassment based on actual or perceived immigration status, religious beliefs and customs, or any other individual bias or prejudice. Students should be taught the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, how to advocate for themselves, how to help another student who is being bullied, and when to seek assistance from a trusted adult. As role models for students, staff are responsible for teaching and modeling respectful behavior and building safe and supportive learning environments, and are expected to demonstrate effective problem-solving and anger management skills.

To discourage cyberbullying, teachers may advise students to be cautious about sharing passwords, personal data, or private photos online and to consider the consequences of making negative comments about others online.

Staff shall receive related professional development, including information about early warning signs of harassing/intimidating behaviors and effective response. District families are encouraged to model respectful behavior, contribute to a safe and supportive learning environment, and monitor potential causes of bullying.

The Superintendent or designee shall annually make available to all certificated staff and to other employees who have regular interaction with students the California Department of Education (CDE) online training module on the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying, including the identification of bullying and cyberbullying and the implementation of strategies to address bullying.  (Education Code 32283.5) 

The Superintendent or designee shall train teachers and other school staff/personnel to ensure that they are aware of their legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying, eliminate a hostile environment, and respond to any incidents of harassment based on the actual or perceived characteristics noted above Such training shall be designed to provide staff with the skills to:

  1. Discuss the diversity of the student body and school community, including their varying immigration and indigenous experiences
  2. Discuss bullying prevention strategies with students, and teach students to recognize the behavior and characteristics of bullying perpetrators and targets
  3. Identify the signs of bullying or harassing behavior
  4. Take immediate corrective action when bullying is observed
  5. Report incidents to the appropriate authorities, including law enforcement in instances of criminal behavior consistent with Board Policy 5145.11, Questioning and Apprehension by Law Enforcement and Board Resolution No. 206-23A3 "In Support of Black Lives in SFUSD and the Abolition of Armed Law Enforcement in Schools".
  6. Work with families utilizing Restorative Practices to repair harm, resolve conflicts, and strengthen relationships 

Based on an assessment of bullying incidents at school, the school site administrator may increase supervision and security in areas where bullying most often occurs, such as classrooms, playground, hallways restrooms, and cafeterias.


Students are encouraged to notify school staff when they are being bullied, harassed, or suspect that another student is being targeted. In addition, the Superintendent or designee shall develop means for students to report threats or incidents confidentiality and anonymously. School staff who witness an act of discrimination, intimidation, bullying or harassment shall immediately intervene to stop the incident when it is safe to do so. (Education Code 234.1) When appropriate based on the severity or pervasiveness of the bullying, the Superintendent or designee shall notify the parents/guardians of targets and perpetrators and may contact law enforcement. The Superintendent, principal, or principal's designee may refer a target , witness and/or bystander and/or ally, perpetrator, or other student affected by an act of bullying to a school counselor, school psychologist, social worker, child welfare attendance personnel, school nurse, or other school support service personnel for case management, counseling, and/or participation in a restorative justice program/conference as appropriate. (Education Code 48900.9)

Filing, Investigation and Resolution of Uniform Complaints Related to Bullying

The Board encourages the early, informal resolution of complaints whenever possible and appropriate. However, if any complaint of bullying or harassment is submitted to the District, it shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with law, the procedure outlined in AR 5131.2 and the District's uniform complaint procedures specified in AR 1312.3. The District shall ensure that these complaint procedures include confidentiality safeguards for immigration status information consistent with BP 5125 . If during the investigation, it is determined that a complaint is about nondiscriminatory bullying or harassment, the principal or designee shall inform the complainant and shall take all necessary actions to resolve the complaint.


Corrective actions for a student who commits an act of bullying or harassment of any type may include counseling, behavioral intervention and education, and, if the behavior is severe or pervasive as defined in Education Code 48900, may include suspension or expulsion in accordance with District policies and regulations.

When appropriate based on the severity or pervasiveness of the bullying, the Superintendent or designee shall notify the guardians of victims and perpetrators and may contact law enforcement.

Any employee who permits or engages in bullying or retaliation related to bullying, or harassment or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

Intradistrict Safety Transfer

If the Superintendent or designee believes it is in the best interest of a student who is found to have been the victim of an act of bullying or harassment, as defined in Education Code sections 48900(r), 48900.2, 48900.3, or 48900.4, the Superintendent or designee shall advise the student's guardians that the student may request a voluntary transfer to another school.

For the conduct to meet the definition of bullying or harassment to qualify for a safety transfer , it must result in a finding of a "severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of any electronic act, include one or more acts committed by a student or group of students as defined by Education Code section 48900(r), 48900.2, 48900.3, or 48900.4, and be directed toward one or more students in such a way that caused or could cause a reasonable student to experience one or more of the following:

  1. Fear of harm to themselves or property,
  2. Substantial detrimental effect on the student's physical or mental health,
  3. Substantial interference with the student's academic performance,
  4. Substantial interference with the student's ability to fully participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school. 

If the guardians of a student who has been found to be victim of an act of bullying or harassment submits a safety transfer request for the student pursuant to Education Code 46600, the Superintendent or designee shall allow the transfer in accordance with law and District policy on intradistrict transfers. (Board Policy 5116.1) Intradistrict transfer requests submitted by a student found to be a victim of an act of bullying shall be permitted according to the District policy on interdistrict transfers. (Board Policy 5117).

Prohibited Retaliation

The District also prohibits any form of harassment, threats, intimidation, or retaliation against any individual who reports or participates in the reporting or investigating of bullying or harassment.  Retaliation is an act of discrimination, coercion, intimidation or threat against a person for the purpose of interfering with the exercise of a protected right, such as making a complaint, testifying, assisting, or participating in an investigation in any matter. Retaliation complaints shall be investigated and resolved in the same manner as a bullying or discrimination complaint.

Data Collection and Reporting

Principals are responsible for ensuring the documentation of all bullying and harassment complaints (including all informal/verbal and formal/written complaints)

This page was last updated on March 20, 2024