San Mateo-Foster City School District Talks Bullying

The local K-8 district revisited its official policy on bullying at a recent school board meeting, which touches upon zero tolerance, mandatory intervention by staff, and immediate reporting and investigation of incidents.

Bullying - it's a sensitive yet serious topic that has garnered a lot of attention nationwide in recent years.

At a recent school board meeting, the San Mateo-Foster City School District (SMFCSD), which operates all K-8 public schools in the area, revisited and updated the district's official policies and regulations on bullying, and reinforced its commitment to zero tolerance.

"As a district we have always taken bullying very seriously, and it is part of our discipline and harassment code," Molly Barton, the district's assistant superintendent, told Patch.

Barton said the district specifically wanted to revisit its policies and regulations on the issue to remind everyone how important it is and to make sure everyone is on the same page.

"Particularly after the event that happened in Massachusetts recently, where a girl killed herself over bullying, naturally there's been a focus and attention paid to it," she said. "And, in California, there have been quite a few laws that have changed, and changes in the education code."

For example, Barton cited California Assembly Bill 9, which went into effect July 1, 2012, requiring all schools in the state to have a policy for student safety and bullying in place, in keeping with the state's standards.


Highlights of the district's policy on bullying

The policy starts off by saying, "The San Mateo-Foster City School District will not tolerate behavior that infringes on the safety of any student. A student shall not intimidate, harass, or bully another student through words or actions.

"Such behavior includes: direct physical contact such as hitting or shoving; verbal assaults such as teasing or name-calling; and social isolation or manipulation."

According to the policy, staff members have an obligation to immediately intervene in any incident of bullying they witness, if safe to do so, be it in class, at recess, in the halls, on a student's way to or from school, or in any off-campus, school-sponsored activity.

In addition, staff members are required to report any incidents of bullying or harassment they witness to the principal or another designated school district employee immediately, and an immediate investigation into the incident must take place.

The district has also adopted official policies for the discipline of any students found guilty of bullying or harassing, "up to and including expulsion."

An additional policy is also in place so that, if parents or students feel that the victim of bullying or harassment's incidents have not been sufficiently addressed or investigated, there is an official complaint process with the district they can explore, beyond what their school has done about the incidents.


'It's everyone's responsibility'

Barton said, the school district wants to make it clear that stamping out bullying and harassment in San Mateo-Foster City K-8 schools is everyone's responsibility - even beyond students' lives at school.

"We're all calling out that it's everybody's responsibiity to address bullying - so it's bystanders' and community members' responsibility also," she said.

Read more about the school district's policies on student bullying and harassment in the downloadable PDF document included in the photo section of this article.


PATCH WANTS TO KNOW - If you are a local parent, is bullying a concern to you and your family? Have you witnessed any incidents at local schools? What do you think of the San Mateo-Foster City School District's policy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.


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