The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) issued guidance this month that transportation is a key component of both school district policy as well as state legislation aimed to combat student bullying.
The analysis of state bullying laws and policies defines what behaviors constitute bullying and outlines how bullying can adversely affect student learning, safety and the school environment. The study further points out that DOE guidance dictates that school district policies and state laws should include school-provided transportation under the scope of where school bullying can occur and when school districts should be responding to and investigating incidents. Currently, only three states, Kentucky, Oregon and Tennessee, specifically cite school-sponsored transportation in state law.
The analysis of state bullying laws and policies was born from a federal bullying prevention summit held in August 2010 and organized by the DOE and Health and Human Services. The study set out to gauge to what extent state bullying laws or state or local school district bullying policies cover key components identified by the DOE. The study also answered how state laws translate into actual practice at the local level. In addition to reviewing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, researchers at EMT Associates, Inc., also reviewed 20 school district bullying policies.
Forty-six states passed bullying laws as of April 2011, with all but one of the laws directing school districts to adopt bullying policies. But, as the report points out, three of the 46 states fail to define the specific bullying behavior that is being prohibited. Meanwhile, 36 states include provisions in their education codes that prohibit cyberbullying or bullying using electronic media.
The study finds that 13 states specify that schools have jurisdiction over off-campus behavior if it creates a hostile school environment; 41 states have created model bullying policies, 12 of which were not mandated to do so under law; and Hawaii, Montana and Michigan have developed model policies in the absence of state bullying legislation.
Districts located in states with more expansive legislation produced the most expansive school district policies. However, several school districts in states with less expansive laws also substantially expanded the scope and content of their policies beyond the minimum legal expectations.