The notice should explain the behavior that constitutes bullying, prohibit bullying and describe the discipline consequences of engaging in bullying. The notice must be posted in every classroom, cafeteria, restroom, gymnasium, auditorium, and school bus.
As soon as reasonably practicable, the school must report to the legal guardian that his or her child is believed to be the target of bullying and prepare a written report of the alleged bullying incident. The school system must promptly investigate credible bullying reports. The investigation must be completed as soon as possible, but no later than 5 school days from the date of the written report of the alleged bullying incident. Within 5 school days upon completion of the investigation, the school system must notify the parent of a student who is a party to an investigation of information about the investigation in accordance with federal and state privacy laws.
Determining if a behavior is a form of bullying depends on the individual context of the act and if it meets the Arkansas definition of bullying reflected here. All mean behaviors may not meet the definition of bullying, especially when the behavior was not intentional. Unfortunately, there is no absolute list of behaviors that are identified as bullying, but there is a statutory standard that must be met.
The school must promptly respond with steps that are reasonably calculated to end the bullying (beyond merely speaking to the aggressor), escalate efforts if the bullying continues and restore the student’s access to the educational opportunities provided by the school.The failure to deliberately respond could violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The school is encouraged to utilize their progressive discipline consequences in instances where bullying behaviors continue to be exhibited – just as the school system would respond to deter other negative behaviors.
The school is also encouraged to juxtapose at any point the implementation of targeted interventions along with discipline consequences – meaning using the investigation findings to identify the root reasons for the bullying behavior and determining needed conversations or supports for the aggressors.
Possible causes of bullying include being envious, venting frustrations, maintaining reputation or admiration by others, feeling powerless, seeking revenge, or being previously bullied at home, school, club, etc. Address the inner motivation for bullying or replace the negative bullying behavior with an alternative way to deal with a problem.
If the student is currently being supported via an Individualized Education Program (IEP), Section 504 Plan, Behavior Plan, etc. it is encouraged that bullying prevention supports for either the aggressor or the targeted student be documented in those ongoing plans to ensure clarity and prevent repetitiveness. If there is no plan currently being used to support the student, interventions might be detailed in a bullying safety plan or plan of care locally developed by the school system. Counselor provided interventions might be documented similarly, communicating the impact of these supports to the appropriate individual and teams.
The school must determine if the behavior was caused by the student’s disability. The investigation findings should be helpful in this determination. If a team determines that the act was caused by the disability, they are expected to plan supports that will teach or aid the student to better manage their disability to prevent future bullying behaviors. The team must be familiar with requirements under IDEA and Section 504 regarding changing a student’s placement if it is deemed appropriate. The school should closely monitor and support the student while ensuring the safety of others.
The school should determine how the targeted student was impacted by the bullying act. The investigation findings should be helpful in this determination. If changes in the targeted student’s behavior or academic performance indicate that they may not be receiving FAPE, the student’s IEP or Section 504 Team (and as needed the school counselor) are encouraged to plan supports to restore the student’s access to learning and the full educational program. This may include promptly providing additional services and increasing monitoring of the targeted student to prevent future bullying.
Healthy school cultures and social environments teach individual fortitude and self-sufficiency. Schools should balance the need to reaffirm student resiliency skills just as equally as their diligence to ensure student safety in regards to bullying prevention. Student grit and bullying prevention go hand-in-hand in protecting student self-concept.
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