School district adopts bullying standards

The South Kitsap School District adopted two new policies over the summer regarding threats of violence and bullying in accordance with state laws.

SKSD approved Policy No. 3413, prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying, which the state Senate had required each school district to have in place by Aug. 1.

The policy states that “harassment, intimidation or bullying (is) any intentional written, verbal or physical act” that physically harms a student or damages their property, creates a hostile environment or substantially interferes with a student’s education or the school’s operations.

The district also approved Policy No. 3414, which states that “staff, students, volunteers and others involved in school activities have the responsibility to report any threats of violence or harm to designated school officials.”

This policy was mandated by Senate Bill 6351, which required school districts to adopt policies for notifying students or school employees who may be the targets of potential threats of violence or harm by Sept. 1.

Frank Sullivan, the district’s director of school administration and student services, said the new policies are due to a general increased awareness of threats and bullying following school tragedies such as the multiple murders at Columbine High School in 1999.

“The whole point is to offer a safe learning environment in our changing — rapidly changing — world,” Sullivan said. “We’re letting people know we’re sitting up and taking notice.”

Sullivan said the two policies will not translate into huge changes for how the district handles incidents, however. As an assistant principal at South Kitsap High — the state’s largest three-year high school — for 12 years until 2002, Sullivan said the high school has had similar procedures in place for many years.

Officer Bob MacFann, who has served as school resource officer for the high school and Cedar Heights Junior High for four years, agreed, saying as far as he’s concerned the high school has always taken threats seriously.

Sullivan said the major changes are that now it is mandatory for any staff person — custodian, teacher or lunchroom supervisor — to report threats ranging from name-calling to assaults, and the parents of a victim or potential victim must be notified as well.

“Before, if you were bullied, your parents wouldn’t have gotten a call — we’d just call the bully’s parents,” he said. “I believe notifying parents is just part of education, and part of being an administrator. That’s all I would expect as a parent.”

Sullivan said the increased reporting and notification will hopefully lead to more — and sooner — intervention opportunities, and ultimately safer schools.

“Will we catch everything? No,” he said, “but I think we’ll catch a lot more.”

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