• Bullying and Cyber-Bullying Remain Hot Issues
  • December 6, 2011 | Authors: Dina Harris; Cathy S. Holmes
  • Law Firms: Best Best & Krieger LLP - San Diego Office ; Best Best & Krieger LLP - Riverside Office
  • Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law three bills (AB 9, AB 1156 and AB 620) aimed at addressing bullying in schools. In so doing, Governor Brown affirmed direction from the state and federal Departments of Education and the Office for Civil Rights that bullying in schools is unacceptable and school district personnel must now take action not only to stop it, but must also make sure that it does not recur. While the bills affecting K-12 school districts do not go into effect until July 1, 2012, school officials should start planning now so that required revisions to policies and practices can be in place by this date.

    AB 9 requires K-12 school districts to revise their policies prohibiting unlawful discrimination, harassment and intimidation based on certain actual or perceived characteristics, to prohibit bullying based on those characteristics, and to publicize those policies. The bill also requires that school districts have a process for receiving and investigating complaints of bullying, and requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide information about resources available to assist youth who have been subjected to school-based discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying. This bill goes into effect on July 1, 2012.

    AB 1156 seeks to foster more positive learning environments in K-12 school districts. It notably expands the California Education Code definition of “bullying” and gives pupils who have been victims of bullying priority in transferring to another school district. It encourages schools to include policies and procedures aimed at the prevention of bullying in their school safety plans, and requires the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to contract with professional trainers to coordinate statewide workshops to assist school districts in the prevention of bullying. This bill also goes into effect on July 1, 2012.

    AB 620 relates specifically to higher education and provides for the adoption of policies on harassment, intimidation and bullying as part of the rules governing student behavior by governing boards of postsecondary educational institutions that receive public funds.

    Two other measures were adopted earlier this year to address cyber-bullying: AB 746, which goes into effect January 1, 2012, amended Education Code section 32261 to expand the definition of “electronic act” to include posts on a social network Internet Web site.

    At the federal level, on August 10, 2011, the FCC issued Report and Order FCC 11-125 that requires E-rate applicants to certify that their Internet safety policies, required by the Children Internet Protection Act (CIPA), provide for the education of students concerning appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and regarding cyber-bullying awareness and response. This requirement goes into effect July 1, 2012, coinciding with the two California bills affecting K-12 school districts listed above.