Advocacy to Assist in Resolving Bullying and Harassment Situations
Bullying Resolution Advocacy is a new venture of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age to address what appears to be a significant problem:
In more serious and ongoing situations where students are being repeatedly bullied or harassed, the response by the school very often is not effective in resolving the situation.
About Bullying Resolution Advocacy
Embrace Civility in the Digital Age is dedicated to increasing civility and inclusion in schools and reducing bullying and harassment. This new service is being offered for parents in Oregon.
On the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, 30% of Oregon 8th grade students reported they had been repeatedly bullied in the month prior to the survey. Given what is happening on a national level, the current situation is likely worse.
Research documents that pervasive or persistent bullying can result in life-long emotional harms, as well as loss of access to educational opportunities that are the foundation for success. The harms suffered by students who are harassed based on minority group status are increased. Bullying is also strongly associated with chronic absences and drop-outs, which is a significant concern in Oregon.
The research demonstrates that too often when students or their parents reach out to the school for help, this either does not make things better or makes things worse. Thus, students are being forced every day to spend hours in a place where they are consistently being denigrated and excluded, suffering profound injury.
Parents of students with disabilities have found that it is often very helpful to obtain the services of an independent advocate to help ensure that their child’s Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan is effectively developed and implemented. There is no similar system in place for parents whose children are being bullied or harassed and the manner in which the school has responded has not stopped the hurtful situation. Embrace Civility’s Bullying Resolution Advocacy has been designed to address this serious concern.
In Oregon, if a student or parent is not satisfied with how a concern has been addressed at the school level, there is a complaint process to follow to go up the chain of command to address the concern. A complaint is first filed at the district level and then can be taken to the school board. If this does not resolve the concern, this can be appealed for resolution at the Oregon Department of Education, either as a civil rights complaint or bullying complaint.
Unfortunately, information about the ability to use this complaint process for bullying and harassment situations is often not effectively provided to parents at the district level. Further, there is currently no helpful information about this process on the ODE web site.
Under guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, if student with disabilities who is receiving special education services through an Individualized Education Plan or on a 504, who is either being or engaging in bullying, this is a matter that must be addressed in an IEP or 504 meeting. However, this must be done in a way that includes both supporting this student in gaining more effective relationship skills, as well as steps the school must take to address the concerns of the maltreatment of this student by other students or staff.
The approach taken by Embrace Civility will be one that focuses on resolution through effective problem-solving. It is important to recognize that punitive interventions are not effective.
It is necessary to ensure an accurate understanding of the situation and seek to identify the underlying motivations of those involved–including students who are being hurtful. This also includes staff who do not effectively intervene when they witness hurtful incidents or when the incidents are reported, as well as staff who are also being hurtful.
Steps also need to be taken to support the positive empowerment of any student who is being treated badly. Embrace Civility Bullying Resolution Advocacy will also provide parents with guidance on ways to accomplish support and empower their child.
Under civil rights regulations and in accord with research, it is necessary in these bullying or harassment situations to both address the specific hurtful situation and to correct aspects of the school culture that appears to be supporting the ongoing harm.
Embrace Civility Bullying Resolution Advocacy will assist parents and students in preparing an effective complaint to the district. It is essential that this initial complaint include the kinds of facts that will force the district to pay attention and respond with diligence in a positive and restorative manner. Embrace Civility Bullying Resolution Advocacy can also provide assistance and guidance to the parent as the complaint is handed by the district or, if necessary, ODE. Alternatively, if your child is on an IEP or 504 Plan, our advocacy can assist in ensuring this Plan effectively addresses the bullying situation.
Throughout this process, Embrace Civility Bullying Resolution Advocacy will encourage a positive resolution that will support all involved students and any involved staff.
Nancy is author of a book for parents, Support and Empower Your Bullied Child: A Guide for Parents. This is available through Amazon Kindle. However, if you request our services, you will receive a free PDF version.
This document, Empower Students to Embrace Civility: Introduction, provides an introduction to the concerns and the approach of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age. You can also watch this video.
We will support parents in following a formal complaint process to address concerns with how a principal is responding to reports that your child is being bullied or harassed.
Oregon Administrative Regulations provide for a complaint process parents can use if the reports of concern that have been made to the principal have not been effectively resolved. OAR 581-022-1941 requires that school districts adopt a complaint procedure for use within the district, which vary from district to district. OAR 581-022-1940 provides for a a review at the state level.
The basic complaint process is this:
- If not satisfied with how the principal has responded, file a formal written complaint at the district level, with the Superintendent or designee.
- If not satisfied with the Superintendent’s decision, appeal this decision to the school board.
- If not satisfied with the school board’s decision, appeal to the Oregon Department of Education.
To pursue the Complaint Process, the most important step will be the development of the formal complaint that is filed with the district. If a parent simply files a written complaint that his or her child is being bullied and the principal’s response is not helping, the district may not engage in a sufficient investigation to document the facts.
A district may bring in a mediator or possibly an investigator in the context of this process. A concern about this approach is that this individual may not know what the civil rights regulations and bullying prevention research indicate is necessary to effectively resolve the problem.
In this Formal Complaint, we will focus on achieving resolutions in accord with federal civil rights, regardless of whether your child is in a protected class.
The following is from the federal civil rights regulations Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students at Educational Institutions (1994), but is similar to all of the civil rights regulations:
- The appropriate response to a racially hostile environment must be tailored to redress fully the specific problems experienced at the institution as a result of the harassment.
- In addition, the responsive action must be reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and ensure that participants are not restricted in their participation or benefits as a result of a racially hostile environment created by students or non-employees.
Simplified, two issues must be effectively addressed:
- The specific hurtful situation your child is experiencing. Two issues of concern must be addressed:
- The hurtful behavior of students and possibly staff.
- Concerns about staff not responding in a manner that makes things better.
- The overall hostile environment that may be fueling the ongoing bullying or harassment of your child.
- This may include addressing the lack of professional development of staff or lack of ongoing instructional focus on inclusion and positive relations, as well as other issues.
Principals have been more recently advised by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that what they must do is both address the specific situation and the hostile environment.
However, too frequently, the focus of the principal is on whether he or she can suspend the student who was alleged to be hurtful. When schools say they have “zero tolerance” for bullying, this most frequently means they have a policy against bullying, tell students to report, and will investigate and punish the person being hurtful — if there is independent objective evidence. This slideshow demonstrates the problem (citations).
We can assist parents in understanding the resolution approaches that hold the greatest promise for resolving the concerns and preparing this Formal Complaint. It may be possible to request a Restorative Conference, which is an excellent approach to achieve a resolution that supports accountability
The federal government has told schools they must address situations where a student with disabilities who is on an Individual Education Plan or 504 Plan and who is being or engaging in bullying in an IEP or 504 meeting. Read here and here.
A huge concern about this is that an IEP or 504 meeting cannot address the concerns of the behavior of other students who are being hurtful. It is therefore possible that the focus will turn to solely how to address the behavior challenges of your child.
If your child has challenges in social relationship skills, these should be identified and plans to effectively address these skills should be developed. However, the more important focus should be on what Supplemental Supports and Services will be provided to address the concerns of other students and possibly staff, and to correct the hostile environment within the school.
Prior to an IEP/504 meeting, it will be recommended that the school be required to conduct an Environment and Relationship Skills Analysis.
This is similar to a Functional Behavior Analysis process the school is familiar with. However, this shifts the focus away from a “what is wrong with this student” thinking to an assessment of the overall environment and a specific focus on any challenges your child may have in building effective social relationships. A template will be provided to the school.
Based on the information from the school, as well as your insight, we can then provide recommendations for what should be included (and not included) in the IEP or 504.
Please note, as said above, this service is designed for the more serious situations there repeated contacts with the school principal has not resulted in a positive outcome. If the situation is not at this level, you are encouraged to first pursue an informal complaint at the district level.
Professional services are provided at the rate of $75 an hour. A $400 retainer is necessary, which is most situations will support the necessary work to prepare a formal complaint. You can pay this through the PayPal link.
Upon payment, you will receive an intake document to complete that will ask you many questions about the current situation in a format that meets evidence standards for making a formal complaint.
You will also receive a copy of Nancy’s book, Support and Empower Your Bullied Child: A Guide for Parents. Additionally, you will receive guidance on a strategy to increase your child’s resilience.
Services for Schools or Districts
While our services are designed for the purposes of supporting parents, Oregon school leaders can also request assistance in responding to chronic bullying and harassment situations through both a Restorative Conference or holding an IEP/504 meeting in a situation where a student with disabilities is being bullied or engaging in bullying.
We truly believe Oregon’s school leaders and staff do not want to see bullying and harassment occurring in school or online, want to respond effectively. and want all students to feel safe, happy, and successful in school.
Contact us at email@example.com for more information.
Not From Oregon
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