Bullying has been a fact of school life for years. But state education official Mike Donlin said there is now more awareness of the issue.
“We now understand better the impact it has, and why it’s important to deal with it,” said Donlin, supervisor for the School Safety Center operated by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Last year, every school district in Washington state was required under a new state law to adopt new policies aimed at preventing bullying.
By law, every district must now have a person designated as a primary contact under its harassment, intimidation and bullying policy.
“They are the point people in charge of making sure there’s a policy in place,” said Donlin.
The district contacts, known as compliance officers, are the “go-to” people, he said.
If a conflict can’t be resolved at the classroom or school level, the compliance officer can step in, he explained. The compliance officer is also the person responsible for:
• Ensuring that investigations conducted by the school district are prompt, impartial and thorough, and keeping records after investigations are complete.
• Receiving copies of formal and informal complaints filed within the district.
• Determining the need for both staff and student training.
• Helping district staff and a targeted child’s parents or guardians develop a safety plan to protect the student. That might include everything from having a student check in with designated adults during the school day to making sure someone keeps an eye on the student during passing times.
“Ideally, prevention comes first,” Donlin said.
He said a statewide working group is looking at curriculum, training programs and other best practices to help school districts.
CONTACTING A COMPLIANCE OFFICER
To find contact information for the compliance officer in your school district, go to www.k12.wa.us. Click on School Safety Center, then on Bullying and Harassment. Scroll down to the list of compliance officers.