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Report: 30 percent of districts lack anti-bullying policy

Every state in the country now has an anti-bullying law, but the regulations vary widely
Source: “From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts,” GLSEN (Click to enlarge)
Source: “From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts,” GLSEN (Click to enlarge)

Despite national campaigns to combat bullying, 3 in 10 districts still do not have policies that protect students from harassment. And many of these school systems are in states that require such rules by law, according to a July report from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, also known as GLSEN.

Most anti-bullying policies are developed on the district level, says Nathan Smith, director of public policy at GLSEN. Every state in the country now has an anti-bullying law, but the regulations vary widely. Only eighteen of these laws prohibit specific behaviors, such as discriminating against students based upon students’ race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.

“District policies that simply say ‘bullying is wrong’ aren’t much more effective than having no policy at all,” Smith says. Professional development on bullying is also limited. Only 19 percent of all school districts require PD for staff on addressing bullying and harassment, according to the report “From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti- Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts.”

Building an effective policy

All administrators should first look at what state law requires, and ensure their district is in compliance, Smith says. According to the report, a strong policy includes:

  • A ban on specific behaviors
  • A clear statement that the policy is applicable to all students, staff and volunteers, and that it covers conduct that takes place in school, at school-sponsored activities, on school buses, or online
  • A plan for how the district will collect bullying reports and investigate them
  • A mechanism to inform students, staff and parents of the policy, such as making it easily accessible through the district website or handbook

“It’s important for administrators to understand the importance of having empirically effective policies in place, that serve as something students can point to and know that the school stands behind them in addressing bullying and harassment issues,” Smith says. “A policy also provides backing for school staff to intervene in instances of bullying and harassment.”