As required by law, T.E.A. has issued the “Minimum Standards for Bullying Prevention” for all public schools, including open-enrollment charters. For our purposes today, this being Toolbox Tuesday, I want to particularly call your attention to Item 7, the last item on T.E.A.’s list, because that’s the one that specifically addresses students with disabilities. But let’s work our way to that final item with a quick summary of the other six points.
The Minimum Standards require:
- Instructional content that is research-based, age-appropriate, and designed to reduce bullying.
- A description of how you will measure success in your efforts. This must include “an age-appropriate survey that includes relevant questions on bullying, including cyberbullying” and “appropriate privacy controls in compliance with FERPA.”
- A committee on each campus that focuses on prevention efforts and health and wellness initiatives. The membership must include parents and secondary students, and “may be incorporated into an existing committee.”
- Policy regarding how bullying is reported, including cyberbullying.
- Support for research-based interventions both for those students who engage in bullying, and those who are targeted.
- A “rubric or checklist to assess an incident of bullying and to determine the LEA’s response to the incident.”
- In connection with the policy in subsection 4 and the rubric/checklist in subsection 6 any actions taken in response to bullying, including cyberbullying, must comply with state and federal law regarding students with disabilities.
The federal law standards are all of those that we’ve incorporated into the Toolbox, such as the requirements for a change of placement (Tools #2, #3, #6), the emphasis on BIPs (Tool #1), and the “special circumstances” (Tool #5) that deal with drugs, weapons, and the infliction of serious bodily injury.
What about state law? There is one provision in state law that we sometimes forget about. In relevant part it tells us that
a student who is enrolled in a special education program under Subchapter A, Chapter 29, may not be disciplined for conduct prohibited in accordance with Subsection (a)(7) until an admission, review, and dismissal committee has been held to review the conduct. T.E.C. 37.001(b-1).
The “conduct prohibited in accordance with Subsection (a)(7)” is bullying, harassment, and the making of a hit list. So this section of Chapter 37 is telling us that there can be no discipline of a student with an IEP for bullying until the ARD Committee has considered the matter. This does not bar campus administrators from taking immediate action to address bullying by a student with a disability. But before the label of “bullying” is attached to the student, the ARD Committee should talk about it.
These “minimum standards” are sure to come up in court cases in the future. If a student sues a district alleging that pervasive bullying was ignored, you can bet that the student’s lawyer will want to examine your compliance with these standards.
DAWG BONE: THE “MINIMUM STANDARDS” WILL COME UP IN LITIGATION. BE SURE YOUR DISTRICT IS IN COMPLIANCE.
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Tomorrow: a touch on the thigh….