Bullying

(SFUSD Board Policy 5131.2)

The Governing Board recognizes the harmful effects of bullying on student learning and school attendance and desires to provide safe school environments that protect students from physical and emotional harm. District employees shall establish student safety as a high priority and shall not tolerate bullying of any student. No individual or group shall, through physical, written, verbal, or other means, harass, sexually harass, threaten, intimidate, retaliate, cyberbully, cause bodily injury to, or commit hate violence against any student or school personnel. 

Bullying can be based on a protected class, as defined in SFUSD Board Policy 1312.3, SFUSD Board Policy 5145.9 and SFUSD Administrative Regulation 5131.2, or can be based on other reasons. 

i. Definitions

Protected Class: Unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, and bullying targeted at any student by anyone, based on the student's actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, nationality, ethnicity, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic information or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

Bullying (CA Education Code 48900(r)): For the conduct to meet the definition of bullying for the purpose of this offense, it must be “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of any electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of students, directed toward one or more students that has or can cause a reasonable student to experience one or 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.

ii. Examples of bullying

Examples of bullying include, but are not limited to:

  1. Physical bullying includes, but is not limited to, intentional, unwelcome acts of beating, biting, fighting, hitting, kicking, poking, punching, pushing, shoving, spitting, tripping.
  2. Social or relationship bullying includes spreading rumors, manipulating relationships, exclusion, blackmailing, isolating, rejecting, using peer pressure and ranking personal characteristics.
  3. Malicious teasing among individuals who are not friends with the intention of invoking, harm, fear or intimidation.
  4. Malicious teasing among individuals based on any member of the above listed “protected class.”
  5. Cyberbullying includes, but is not limited, bullying through messages, texts, sounds or images. Sending or posting of unwanted comments, images, videos, and pictures that are done to intentionally harm or bully a student (whether it is based on protected class or not).
  6. Cyber sexual bullying/harassment includes when a student recipient receives an image and then shares that image to other students through text message, social media, or other electronic means, this is deemed to be cyber sexual bullying/harassment.
  7. Hazing includes, but is not limited to, requiring a student to eat or drink disgusting food/material, endure physical abuse, or engage in physically dangerous or humiliating activities as an initiation to join a student club or team.

iii.  Bullying complaint/investigation process

  1. Each school site should have a mechanism for investigating reported complaints of bullying. The school’s reporting and investigation process must be communicated to all students, families, and staff.
  2. When an incident of bullying is reported to, or witnessed by, a staff member, that staff must inform an administrator. That administrator will identify the appropriate trained staff member to investigate and follow up. A staff member who receives a report of bullying and/or intimidation, shall, within one school day or as soon as possible thereafter, report this to the site principal/administrator or designee. 
  3. After a report or complaint is made, the administrator must determine who the appropriately trained staff member is to investigate. That investigator must speak to the reporting student and gather a statement. If possible, the statement should be in writing and signed by the reporting student. Once the administrator speaks to the student and learns of an incident of alleged bullying, they should notify the student’s parent of the report and that the administrator is investigating.
  4. The investigator should be sure to follow up on all information learned during the investigation. This includes speaking to witnesses and reviewing documentation.
  5. The investigator should always be sure to interview the accused student and get a statement. If possible, the statement should be in writing. Once the administrator speaks to the accused student and gathers information, they should notify the student’s parent of the report and that the administrator is investigating.
  6. Once the investigation is concluded, the administrator should determine if the conflict can be resolved through restorative practices (RP). If  restorative practices is appropriate, the administrator should ensure that the person conducting the conference is trained in restorative practices, that all parties consent, and that it is done through the appropriate methods.

iv.  Interim measures, interventions & supports 

After a report or complaint is made, the responsible site principal/administrator or designee shall determine whether interim measures are necessary to stop, prevent or address the effects of bullying and/or intimidation, including retaliation, harassment or bullying during and pending any informal resolution and/or investigation.  Interim measures can include but are not limited to such as placing students in separate classes or transferring a student to a class taught by a different teacher. Interim measures will be implemented in a manner that minimizes the burden on the individual who was the target of bullying and/or intimidation. Students who are found to have experienced bullying may be offered school based supports, referrals for non-District supports, and can be offered the opportunity to request a safety transfer to another school. 

v.  Discipline

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

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

vi.  Bullying of a Protected Class

Every student has the right to be protected from bullying based on a protected class or by the rationale of being "hate-motivated"behavior.  Bullying of a protected class include behavior done to degrade an individual on the basis of the student’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, nationality, ethnicity, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic information or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. 

Bullying based on a protected class will be investigated and resolved pursuant to this policy, in addition to SFUSD Administrative Regulation 5145.9 (“Hate-Motivated Behavior”).

This SFUSD 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 on student learning and school attendance and desires to provide safe school environments that protect students from physical and emotional harm. District employees shall establish student safety as a high priority and shall not tolerate bullying of any student. No individual or group shall, through physical, written, verbal, or other means, harass, sexually harass, threaten, intimidate, retaliate, cyberbully, cause bodily injury to, or engage in hate-motivated behavior against any student or school personnel. Strategies for addressing bullying in District schools shall be developed with involvement of key stakeholders, including students, parents/guardians, and staff, and may be incorporated into the comprehensive safety plan, the local control and accountability plan, and other applicable District and school plans. Bullying can be based on a protected class, as defined in SFUSD Board Policy 1312.3, SFUSD Board Policy 5145.9 and SFUSD Administrative Regulation 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 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 SFUSD Board Policy 5145.9.

vii.  Cyberbullying 

Cyberbullying includes the creation or transmission of harassing communications, direct threats, or other harmful texts, sounds, or images, or images as defined in CA Education Code 48900 on the Internet, social media, or other technologies using a telephone, computer or any wireless communication device 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.

viii.  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 effective communication and conflict resolution skills, social skills, character/values education, respect for cultural and individual differences, self-esteem development, assertiveness skills, and appropriate online behavior.  Staff shall receive related professional development, including information about early warning signs of harassing/intimidating behaviors and effective response.

The Superintendent or designee shall provide training to teachers and other school staff to raise their awareness about the legal obligation of the District and its employees to prevent discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying of District students. 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
  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, playgrounds, hallways, restrooms, and cafeterias.

ix.  Intervention

Students are encouraged to notify school staff when they are being bullied or suspect that another student is being targeted. In addition, the Superintendent or designee shall develop means for students to report threats or incidents confidentially and anonymously. School staff who witness an act of bullying shall immediately intervene to stop the incident when it is safe to do so. (CA 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. (CA Education Code 48900.9)

x. Reporting and Filing School Site Bullying Complaints

Any student, parent/guardian, or other individual who believes that a student has been subjected to bullying or who has witnessed bullying should report the incident to a teacher, the principal, a compliance officer, or any other trusted school employee. Within one business day of receiving such a report, a staff member shall notify the principal of the report, whether or not a uniform complaint is filed. In addition, any school employee who observes an incident of bullying involving a student shall, within one business day, report their observation to the principal, whether or not the alleged target files a complaint.  Within two business days of receiving a report of bullying, the principal shall notify the District compliance officer identified in SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.3, Uniform Complaint Procedures. Administrators must investigate school site bullying complaints in accordance with SFUSD Administrative Regulation 5131.2.

In addition, when a report of bullying is submitted, the principal or a District compliance officer shall inform the student or parent/guardian of the right to file a formal written complaint in accordance with SFUSD Administrative Regulation R 1312.3. The student who is the alleged target of the bullying shall be given an opportunity to describe the incident, identify witnesses who may have relevant information, and provide other evidence of bullying.

xi. 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 is submitted to the District, it shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with law and the District's uniform complaint procedures specified in SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.3. If during the investigation, it is determined that a complaint is about nondiscriminatory bullying, the principal or designee shall inform the complainant and shall take all necessary actions to resolve the complaint.

xii. Discipline

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

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

xiii. Prohibited Retaliation

The District also prohibits any form of retaliation against any individual who reports or participates in the reporting of bullying. Retaliation complaints shall be investigated and resolved in the same manner as a bullying or discrimination complaint.

ixx. Data Collection and Reporting

Principals are responsible for ensuring the documentation of all bullying complaints (including all informal/verbal and formal/written complaints), into the District's online referral system, BASIS and/or Synergy, within 48 hours of each complaint. At the end of each semester, theStudent, Family, and Community Support Division will include all data related to Bullying complaints as part of the yearly “Safe and Supportive Schools” report.