Unfortunately, bullying is common in school settings, and it can have serious negative effects for both victims and bullies. Preventing bullying is an important factor in protecting students’ mental health and a major component in creating a positive, safe, and affirming school environment, according to a recent U.S. surgeon general’s report. Additionally, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) includes bullying prevention as a component in coordinated school health programs.
The Texas Legislature adopted new requirements regarding bullying in public schools in 2021. Senate Bill (SB) 2050 built on existing law requiring each district to have a policy that prohibits bullying, including cyberbullying. [See FFI(LOCAL) in your district’s policy manual.] The legislation also emphasized preventing and mediating bullying incidents and will require districts to adopt bullying policies that comply with the minimum standards adopted by TEA.
Effects on Anti-Bullying Policy
TEA’s minimum standards must do the following:
- Emphasize bullying prevention by focusing on school climate and healthy relationships between students and staff.
- Require each campus to establish a committee to address bullying by focusing on prevention efforts and health and wellness initiatives.
- Provide periodic instruction to students at each grade level on building relationships and preventing bullying, including cyberbullying.
- Emphasize increased student reporting of bullying by increasing awareness of reporting procedures, including anonymous reporting.
- Require districts to collect information through student surveys about bullying and use this information to develop plans to address student concerns about bullying.
- Require a district to develop a rubric or checklist to assess a bullying incident and determine a response.
TEA has posted its updated proposed minimum standards for bullying prevention policies and procedures and invited public feedback through November 28, 2022.
After TEA adopts the minimum standards, TASB Policy Service will issue recommended revisions to policy FFI(LOCAL). The district should present these revisions to its board for consideration and adoption in a timely manner.
Effects on Other District Documents
Once the board adopts the revisions to FFI(LOCAL), the district will need to update the copy of this policy and any relevant procedures in its district improvement plan and employee and student handbooks, as required by state law. TASB Policy Service and TASB HR Services may issue recommended changes to the model student handbook or employee handbook, depending on TEA’s minimum standards for board-adopted policy.
As necessary, Policy Service will update sample regulations and forms related to bullying in the Regulations Resource Manual when it issues recommended policy revisions.
The district will need to develop a rubric or checklist to assess bullying incidents. The Texas School Safety Center has a sample bullying checklist under the Additional Resources section of their website.
The district also needs to be sure the procedure for reporting bullying are posted on its website.
(Use your TASB login to access the student and employee handbooks and Regulations Resource Manual)
Effects on Practice
Statutory changes and the new minimum standards will give districts an opportunity to strengthen their bullying prevention efforts by creating a positive school climate focused on preventing bullying, encouraging students to ask for help if bullying does occur, and investigating and addressing reported bullying incidents, including providing mediation opportunities for students involved in incidents.
Districts are required to report bullying incidents — including cyberbullying — annually through PEIMS, which will require incident tracking throughout the year.
A single incident of mistreatment may be bullying (addressed at FFI), harassment (addressed at FFH), hazing (addressed at FNCC and FOD), a criminal act such as online impersonation, or some combination of the above. TASB Legal Services provides guidance (pdf) to districts in this complicated legal environment.