Four: Set the Policy
     

A strong and inclusive anti-bullying policy not only protects students; it also protects the school. To avoid possible legal action, school systems should have concrete policies and back policies up with training and education for the entire school community. 


Sample Policy:

(Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network--GLSEN--Model Policy) 


Statement of Purpose

This School District acknowledges that all students have the right to participate fully in the educational process, free from bullying and harassment, and in that regard, a safe and civil environment in school is necessary for students to learn and to achieve high academic standards. Bullying and harassment, like other disruptive or violent behaviors, are forms of conduct that disrupt both a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate its students in a safe environment. Because students learn by example, school administrators, faculty, staff, and volunteers should be expected to demonstrate appropriate behavior, treat others with civility and respect, and refuse to tolerate bullying and harassment. 

Definitions

A. “Bullying” means written, verbal or physical conduct that adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities by placing the student (or students) in reasonable fear of physical harm. This includes conduct that is based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion or any other distinguishing characteristics that may be defined by the district or state educational agency. This also includes association with a person or group with one or more of the abovementioned characteristics, whether actual or perceived.

B. “Harassment” means written, verbal or physical conduct that adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities because the conduct is so severe, persistent or pervasive. This includes conduct that is based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, or any other distinguishing characteristics that may be defined by the district or state educational agency. This also includes association with a person or group with one or more of the abovementioned characteristics, whether actual or perceived.

C. “Cyber-bullying” means use of any electronic communication technology to bully or harass, as defined above, one or more students, regardless of location or the type of electronic communication used.

Model School Policy on Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students

Transgender and gender non-conforming students face unique challenges in schools. It is important for educators to have very specific solutions to meet the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students. The Gay, Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN) along with the National Center for Transgender Equality recently launched the first-ever resource aimed at making schools safer for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Key components of the Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students include:

  • Detailed definition of bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Clear guidelines on maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all students
  • Protections for students in gender-segregated areas and activities
  • Specific language to address school and district dress code policies

GLSEN/NCTE 2011 Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students


Two Critical Components for Every Policy: 

Enumerate – or spell out – specific categories covered by the policy. Doing so is critical to ensuring that the policy is meaningful and “has teeth.” It is also a crucial guideline for proper training for school officials. 

About two-thirds (65.7%) of students in schools with comprehensive policies heard homophobic remarks (e.g., “faggot” or “dyke”) often or frequently, compared to almost three-quarters of students in schools with generic, non-enumerated policies (73.7%) or no policy whatsoever ( 74.1%).

Students in schools with comprehensive policies were more likely than students in schools with a generic policy or no policy to report that staff intervened when homophobic remarks (26.6% vs. 15.9% vs. 10.0%) or negative remarks about gender expression (17.3% vs. 13.3% vs. 8.9%) were made.

Include LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT in your school’s policy. LGBT youth are not the only targets of bullying. In many cases, students are targeted because of perceptions about their sexual orientation or gender identity. By including terms such as “actual or perceived” with enumerated categories, every student is protected. 

Statistics from 2009 National School Climate Survey (New York, NY: GLSEN, 2010) 

 

HELPFUL HINT: Strong enumerated anti-bullying policies assist schools in providing protections for all students, especially vulnerable populations such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming students. Often, schools are not prepared to meet the needs of these students as schools, educators and school personnel lack a basic understanding and training around LGBT issues. Having enumerated policies sends a clear message that LGBT bullying will not be tolerated, and allows our members to engage with educators on how to implement these policies successfully through training opportunities which include dialog around language, inclusive best practices, curriculum development, and other support strategies.

For more information on creating enumerated school policies, please read Enumeration: A Tool for Advocates.



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