Administrative Regulation on Bullying

Administrative Regulation 5131.2

San Francisco Unified School District and County Office of Education

Administrative Regulation 5131.2

Bullying and Harassment

This Administrative Regulation applies to the San Francisco Unified School District and the County Office of Education.

The Governing Board is committed to providing a safe and supportive learning environment that protects students from discrimination, harassment, and bullying. This regulation is meant to advise school site staff and administration on the handling of school site complaints regarding bullying and student conflict.


  1. 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, immigration status, ethnicity, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital status, pregnancy,parental status, reproductive health decision making, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, veteran or military status, or genetic information or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.
  2. Bullying (Education Code 48900(r)): 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. 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 student or group of students, inclusive of acts described in Education Code sections 48900.2, 48900.3, or 48900.4, directed toward one or more students that has or can 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.
  3. Hazing (Education Code 48900(q)): A method of initiation or pre-initiation into an organization or group which is likely to cause serious bodily injury, personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm to a student.
  4. Cyber Bullying: Includes, but is not limited to, transmission of communications or posting of harassing messages, direct threats, or other harmful texts, sounds, or images on the Internet, social networking sites, or other digital technologies using a cell phone or, 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.  Cyber sexual harassment/bullying includes sharing of naked body parts or sexually suggestive pictures of another student through text message, social media, or other electronic means, which then creates a hostile school environment.  This would be deemed cyber sexual bullying/harassment.
  5. Student Conflicts: Not all incidents and student conflict amount to “bullying” or harassment". Incidents that do not amount to bullying or harassment include, but are not limited to: disagreements or conflict between students, incidental injuries, a single incident, mutual combat between students, and if a particular student comes into contact/injures/upsets another student without that other student being the intended target.
  6. Harassment: Unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Prohibited harassment also includes intentionally engaging in harassment, threats, or intimidation, directed against school district personnel or students, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to have the actual and reasonably expected effect of materially disrupting classwork, creating substantial disorder, and invading the rights of either school personnel or student by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment.
  7. Reporting Party: A student who reports that they or another student  are the victim or target of conduct that would constitute bullying or harassment.
  8. Targeted Party: A student who has been the victim or target of conduct that would constitute bullying or harassment. Can be, but is not always, the reporting party.
  9. Responding Party: A student who has been reported to have performed conduct that could constitute bullying or harassment

Examples of Bullying

The following are examples that alone or in combination, would meet the definition of Bullying if they are found to be “severe” or “pervasive”:

  1. Physical bullying: An act that inflicts harm upon a person's body or possessions, such as hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone's possessions.
  2. Verbal bullying: An act that includes saying or writing hurtful things, such as teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, or threats to cause harm.
  3. Social or relationship bullying: An act that harms a person's reputation or relationships, such as leaving a person out of an activity on purpose, influencing others not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors, or embarrassing someone in public.
  4. Cyberbullying: An act that occurs on electronic devices such as computers, tablets, or cell phones, such as sending demeaning or hateful text messages, direct messages or public posts on social media apps, gaming forums, or emails, spreading rumors by email or by posting on social networking sites, shaming or humiliating by allowing others to view, participate in, or share disparaging or harmful content, or posting or sharing embarrassing photos, videos, website, or fake profiles
  5. Cyber sexual bullying/harassment: A specific type cyberbullying which includes the unwanted sharing of images or content of another student that is sexual in nature to others through text message, social media, or other electronic means
  6. Hazing: Acts forced upon students by other students upon initiation to join a student club or team which are physically dangerous or humiliating, including but not limited to, requiring a student to eat or drink disgusting food/material, endure physical abuse, or perform humiliating conduct.

Reporting and Filing School Site Bullying and Harassment Complaints

Any student, guardian, or other individual who believes that a student has been subjected to bullying or harassment or who has witnessed bullying or harassment should report the incident to a teacher, the principal, a compliance officer, or any other 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 or harassment involving a student shall, within one business day, report their observation to the principal, whether or not the alleged target files a complaint. 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.

Within two business days of receiving a report of bullying and harassment on the basis of belonging to or being perceived as belonging to a protected class as described in AR 5131.2, the principal shall notify the District compliance officer identified in AR 1312.3, Uniform Complaint Procedures.

In addition, when a report of bullying or harassment is submitted, the principal of a District compliance officer shall inform the student or guardian of the right to file a formal written complaint in accordance with AR 1312.3.

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 a 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 students and to have the material removed. 

School Site Bullying and Harassment Investigations

Safe campuses require a multi-faceted approach with clear and consistent behavior expectations as well as strategies to prevent, respond to, and recover from incidents of bullying, hazing and harassment. The school principal participates in and directs all school staff to create an environment where the school community upholds the standards of respect and civility and understands that bullying and hazing are inappropriate, harmful and unacceptable. Towards this goal, schools shall:

  1. Set school-wide expectations that align with the District’s Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution that promote safe, respectful, and bully-free school environment. These expectations shall be shared with all students, families, and staff.
  2. Each school site should have a mechanism for investigating reported complaints of bullying and harassment. The school’s reporting and investigation process must be communicated to all students, families, and staff. School site administrators should make best efforts to complete their investigations within two (2) weeks This timeline can be extended for good cause so long as any investigation delays are communicated to the families of the involved students.
  3. When an incident of bullying or harassment is reported to, or witnessed by, a school site staff, 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, harassment, and/or intimidation, shall, within one school day or as soon as possible thereafter, report this to the site principal/administrator or designee. School site staff must be informed of this requirement.
  4. After a report or complaint is made, the responsible site principal/administrator or designee shall determine whether supportive measures are necessary to stop, prevent or address the effects of bullying, harassment, and/or intimidation, including retaliation, harassment or bullying during and pending any informal resolution and/or investigation, such as placing students in separate classes or transferring a student to a class taught by a different teacher. Supportive measures will be implemented in a manner that minimizes the burden on the individual who was the target of bullying and/or intimidation.
  5. 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.
  6. The investigator should be sure to follow up on all information learned during the investigation. This includes speaking to witnesses and reviewing documentation.
  7. 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/guardian of the report and that the administrator is investigating.
  8. Once the investigation is concluded, ideally within two (2) weeks, the administrator should determine if the conflict can be resolved through restorative practices (RP). If RP is appropriate, the administrator should ensure that the person conducting the conference is trained in RP, that all parties consent, and that it is done through the appropriate methods.

Hate crimes (vandalism, physical assault, arson, etc.) are crimes which are motivated, in whole or in part, by bias, by the targeted individual or group’s characteristics or perceived characteristics of disability, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or association with a person or group who has one of these characteristics.  “Hate crimes” should be reported to law enforcement.

If the investigation concludes that the bullying incident is a unique and special circumstance that is not common to other students and involves a continuing and credible threat to the physical or psychological or emotional stability of the student identified as the victim, the school site should review whether suspension or expulsion is appropriate and also consider whether additional supportive measures are necessary . If a student is found to be the victim of bullying and the family requests information about the safety transfer process, the administrator shall provide that information to the student and family, as required by CA Education Code and District Policy

Supportive Measures

Supportive measures are non-disciplinary, non-punitive individualized services offered to the reporting or responding party of a bullying or harassment investigation. Supportive measures may include, for example, wellness check-ins, extensions of deadlines or other course related adjustments, or placing the individuals involved in separate classes or transferring a student to a class taught by a different teacher, in accordance with law and Board policy. Upon receiving a report of bullying or harassment, the school site administrator, or designee, should promptly contact the students and families to discuss the availability of supportive measures.

The Superintendent, principal, or designee may refer a victim, witness, 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 as appropriate.  (Education Code 48900.9)

If any student involved in bullying exhibits warning signs of suicidal thought or intention or of intent to harm another person, the Superintendent or designee shall, as appropriate, implement District intervention protocols  which may include, but are not limited to, referral to district or community mental health services, other health professionals, and/or law enforcement, in accordance with Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 5141.52 - Suicide Prevention.

Filing, Investigation and Resolution of Uniform Complaints Related to Bullying

School site staff should notify families of their right to file a Uniform Complaint if they are unsatisfied with the school site’s resolution of a bullying complaint. If a Uniform Complaint form alleging bullying or harassment on the basis of belonging to a protected class is submitted to the school site, it shall be forwarded to the Office of Equity for proper handling.  The compliance officer shall contact the complainant and investigate and resolve the complaint in accordance with law and district procedures specified in AR 1312.3. 


When applicable, the District shall ensure immigration status information is safeguarded. All complaints and allegations of sexual harassment shall be kept confidential except as necessary to carry out the investigation or take other subsequent necessary action. (5 CCR 4964)

However, when a student notifies the District of the harassment but requests confidentiality, the administrator shall inform them that the request may limit the District's ability to investigate the harassment or take other necessary action. When honoring a request for confidentiality, the District will nevertheless take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the request. In certain circumstances, the District may not be able to honor the request of confidentiality in order to meet its legal requirements.

Student Conflict

All school sites promote positive and supportive peer relationships. The district’s Safe and Supportive Schools policy by using:

  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) to build safe, consistent, and predictable classrooms and schools;
  • Restorative Practices to intentionally and proactively build positive community relationships among students, staff, and families;
  • Trauma-informed practices to heal and support students impacted by trauma;
  • Data systems to record, monitor, assess, and inform continuous improvement in these areas.

Parent/Guardian Notification/Involvement & Restorative Practices

Once an incident of bullying or harassment is reported by the student, school site staff should notify the student’s parent/guardian of the report and that the administrator is investigating. Parent/guardian notification does not need to occur prior to speaking the student(s).

In addition, parents, guardians, advocates or other third parties may submit lawfully obtained evidence on behalf of their child, but may not otherwise participate in the investigative process  or be present during the meeting of a child that is not their own, even if staff are present.

If RP is appropriate, the administrator should ensure that the person conducting the conference is trained in RP, that all parties consent, and that it is done through the appropriate methods. If a RP conference is not appropriate, administrators should seek to restore the relationship through other means. RP is not appropriate in cases of alleged sexual assault/battery and should be carefully considered before doing in cases of verbal, physical, or cyber sexual harassment.

When the accused student has received consequences for an incident of racist bullying, harassment, or intimidation, the principal or designee should offer the accused student a culturally sensitive restorative justice program that promotes racial justice and equity and combats racism and ignorance. Where the targeted student agrees to participate in the restorative program, the principal or designee must regularly check on the targeted student to ensure the targeted student is not in danger of suffering from any long-lasting mental health issues.

Bullying of 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 Administrative Regulation 5145.9 (“Hate- Motivated Behavior”).

Interventions and School-Based Supports

Administrators should refer to the district’s Primary Matrix, as found in the Student and Family Handbook, for interventions, social emotional supports, behavioral RTI and restorative practices. Interventions in the matrix must be considered and exhausted prior to suspension, unless the incident is so severe or the safety of a particular student or the school environment is at risk. If suspension is considered, the administrator must consult with the Assistant Superintendent who supervises that school site.


Documentation of interventions are important for bullying incidents in order to support positive behavior, continues support for the student(s) throughout their school career, and safe school environments.  Appropriate documentation will support requests for additional supports and services and, when appropriate referral for suspension or expulsion and school transfer requests.

Information and Resources

The Superintendent or designee shall post on the District's website, in a prominent location and in a manner that is easily accessible to students and guardians, information on bullying and harassment prevention which includes the following: (Education Code 234.6)

  1. The District's policy on student suicide prevention, including a reference to the policy's age appropriateness for students in grades K-6
  2. The definition of sex discrimination and harassment as described in Education Code 230, including the rights set forth in Education Code 221.8
  3. Title IX information included on the District's website pursuant to Education Code 221.61, and a link to the Title IX information included on CDE's web site pursuant to Education Code 221.6
  4. District policies on student sexual harassment, prevention and response to hate violence, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, bullying, and cyberbullying
  5. A section on social media bullying that included all of the references described in Education Code 234.6 as possible forums for social media
  6. A link to statewide resources, including community-based organizations, compiled by CDE pursuant to Education Code 234.5
  7. Any additional information the Superintendent or designee deems important for preventing bullying and harassment

This page was last updated on March 26, 2024