School staff to begin anti-bullying training

Required training for Lafayette Parish School System school employees — from teachers to cafeteria workers — will begin within the next few weeks in compliance with the state’s new state law that targets bullying, said Bradley Cruice, the school system’s health and wellness director.

Any school employee who has contact with students is required to receive four hours of training that includes information on how to recognize and address bullying behavior, Cruice said. The school system partnered with the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning to create an Internet-based training program, he said.

The state law also requires public school systems across Louisiana to adopt a uniform policy that defines bullying and establishes reporting practices and investigative procedures. All school districts will also now use a standard reporting form to document bullying incidents, in accordance with the new law.

The law defines bullying as a pattern of one or more of the following:

“Gestures, including but not limited to obscene gestures and making faces;”

“Written, electronic, or verbal communications, including but not limited to calling names, threatening harm, taunting, malicious teasing, or spreading untrue rumor;”

“Electronic communication including but not limited to a communication or image transmitted by e-mail, instant message, text message, blog, or social networking website through the use of a telephone, mobile phone, pager, computer, or other electronic device;”

“Physical acts, including but not limited to hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, choking, damaging personal property, or unauthorized use of personal property;”

“Repeatedly and purposefully shunning or excluding from activities.”

The School Board is set to approve the policy changes at its next meeting on Dec. 12, to take effect Jan. 1.

While bullying was previously a reportable incident and tracked by school systems and the state, the changes in the law now sets a standard procedure for reporting and investigating bullying incidents, Cruice said. Previously, schools within the same system might have used a different form and different investigative procedures, he said.

“Now, there’s also specific timelines for those investigations to occur,” he said.

The law requires school personnel to report a bullying incident the day of the incident and file a written report within two days. It also requires a principal to notify parents and begin an investigation by the next school day and conclude an investigation within 10 days.

If a school fails to investigate four or more reports of separate bullying incidents, the parent of the victim may transfer their child to another school, according to the law.

Cruice provided the School Board with an overview of the policy changes at the board’s Nov. 28 meeting.

Board member Tommy Angelle asked for clarification on the student transfer provision, specifically why the victim would need to be moved from the school rather than the alleged bully.

“The bully would be addressed,” Cruice said. “As a system, if we don’t do anything and we have a frustrated parent, they have an avenue to request a transfer. We would address that bully in that first instance.”

Cruice said the district is also devising ways to address school bully behavior through educational classes. Community service hours for those students reported for bullying incidents is also an option, he said.