Summary: The Safe Schools Act deters harassment, intimidation and bullying in K-12 schools by creating clear school policies.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Safe Schools Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:
1. A safe and civil environment in school is necessary in order for students to learn and achieve high academic standards.
2. Harassment, intimidation and bullying, like other disruptive or violent behaviors, impede both a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate its students in a safe environment.
3. Since students learn by example, school administrators, faculty, staff, and volunteers should be commended for demonstrating appropriate behavior, treating others with civility and respect, and refusing to tolerate harassment, intimidation and bullying.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect the health and welfare, and improve the learning environment for schoolchildren.
SECTION 3. SAFE SCHOOLS
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:
“Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any gesture or written, verbal or physical act that is reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, or on a school bus, and that:
1. A reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming a student or damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property; or
2. Has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.
(B) NO HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION OR BULLYING
1. No person shall engage in harassment, intimidation or bullying.
2. No person shall engage in reprisal, retaliation or false accusation against a victim, witness or one with reliable information about an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
3. A school employee, student or volunteer who has witnessed, or has reliable information that a student has been subject to, harassment, intimidation or bullying shall report the incident to the appropriate school official.
(C) ADOPTION OF ANTI-HARASSMENT SCHOOL POLICIES
1. Before January 1, 20XX, each local school district shall adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying on school property, at a school-sponsored function, or on a school bus. The school district shall involve parents and guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators, and community representatives in the process of adopting the policy.
2. A local school district shall have control over the content of the policy, except that the policy shall contain, at a minimum, the following components:
a. A statement prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying of a student.
b. A definition of harassment, intimidation or bullying no less inclusive than that set forth in this section.
c. A description of the type of behavior expected from each student.
d. Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who commits an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
e. A procedure for reporting an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying, including a provision that permits a person to report an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying anonymously. However, this shall not be construed to permit formal disciplinary action solely on the basis of an anonymous report.
f. A procedure for prompt investigation of reports of serious violations and complaints, identifying either the principal or the principal’s designee as the person responsible for the investigation.
g. The range of ways in which a school will respond once an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying is confirmed.
h. A statement that prohibits reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying, and the consequence and appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in reprisal or retaliation.
i. Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person found to have falsely accused another.
j. A statement of how the policy is to be publicized, including notice that the policy applies to participation in school-sponsored functions.
[3. To assist local school districts in developing policies for the prevention of harassment, intimidation or bullying, the state Board of Education shall develop model policies applicable to grades kindergarten through 12. These model policies shall be issued no later than October 1, 20XX.]
4. Notice of a local school district’s policy shall appear in any school district publication that sets forth the comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for schools within the school district, and in any student handbook.
5. Information regarding a local school district policy against harassment, intimidation or bullying shall be incorporated into a school’s employee training program.
6. Schools and school districts are encouraged to establish bullying prevention programs, and other initiatives involving school staff, students, administrators, volunteers, parents, law enforcement, and community members.
7. To the extent funds are appropriated for these purposes, a local school district shall:
a. Provide training on the school district’s harassment, intimidation or bullying policies to school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students.
b. Develop a process for discussing the district’s harassment, intimidation or bullying policy with students.
(D) CIVIL LIABILITY
1. This section shall not be interpreted to prevent a victim from seeking redress under any other available law, either civil or criminal. This section does not create or alter any tort liability.
2. A school employee or volunteer who promptly reports an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying to the appropriate school official designated by the local school district’s policy, and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures in the district’s policy, is immune from a cause of action for damages arising from any failure to remedy the reported incident.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Act shall take effect on July 1, 20XX.