Comments re: Sac City USD bullying prevention

Advocacy
Rally poster made by a child who has been bullied, on a large, white poster board, in bold, colorful letters it says “Stop the Bullying” (red, green, purple). Underneath that there are three Stop circles: 1) says “Stop the name calling” with a kid calling another kid Ugly! 2) says “Stop restraints and seclusion”. With a girl with black hair and tears with pony tails, with someone grabbing her (you can only see the arms coming at her), with her left hand up in the air saying “Stop!” and 3) says “Stop Exclusion” with a child with short black hair, and tears, with a sound bubble coming from the other direction saying “You can’t play with us.”. Next to the third stop circle, it says in Red, “All students are equal.” with a red rose, a green stem, and green thorns.

October 17, 2019
RE: Resolution No. 3110: Recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, October 2019

Sacramento City Unified School District (View the written Resolution here and video will be posted the Tuesday after the board meeting)

(Due to time constraints for public comments, our spoken comments were summarized to the Board; however, written copies of this entire public comment were provided.)

Dear Superintendent Aguilar, President Ryan and Board Members,

The Coalition for Students with Disabilities believes that through equity and access all students can achieve academic, social, and life success. However, bullying creates barriers to equity and access particularly for students with disabilities, students of color, and LGBTQ students who are in unsafe learning environments. SCUSD students and families need SCUSD’s commitment to intentional and specific actions and investments that directly impact climate and culture at school sites.

We appreciated that the current reality of SCUSD’s school climate was finally acknowledged by district leaders in August. These included known issues such as exclusionary practices affecting students, a lack of a district wide infrastructure, the opt-in culture at sites, uneven practices between sites, and a focus on adults vs students. However, Bullying Prevention and Intervention was not discussed in depth though bullying is one of the major climate issues at school sites. This lack of focus tells families and students that that the district accepts the status quo and intends on continuing to do what isn’t working.

Bullying Prevention Month and Resolutions can create awareness for the larger community. But the community, especially those directly affected, wants to know what the specific actions are and what is the rationale behind them. We understand the SCUSD’s budget for bullying only pays for one person’s salary and not does not allocate any specific resources or much staff time at school sites to support intentional work. This resolution, though heartfelt, doesn’t even scratch the surface on bullying in SCUSD. Bullying is a systemic issue and it is negatively impacting the outcomes of our most vulnerable student groups.

We are asking for more specific actions from the district that will follow the intent of this resolution. Why?

1. There are no numbers connected to the resolution. The data that has been reported over the years is very confusing and unclear though we have some clear data on climate and culture issues at schools and district wide.a. In 2017/18:

i. 630 school staff, parents, and community members were trained in bullying prevention. There are over 2000 teachers!

1. All admins receive a 2-hour training (must be completed every 2 years) on bullying. Administrators are then expected to go back and do a 1-hour staff training.

ii. 54 number of schools utilized an evidenced-based program.1. How are we measuring the impact and outcomes of the program?iii. 165 reports of suspected bullying

iv. 607 consultations with administrators, school staff, and parents/guardians

v. 56 in-person mediationsb. During the 18-19 School year it was reported that there were:

i. 365 consultations were provided to school staff and families, and

ii. 195 students received case management services and supports.iii. Intensive mediations were completed in 51 cases.

The data given in 17-18 and 18-19 were reported inconsistently. To measure progress, we need them to be reported in a manner that would allow for comparison from year to year.

Suggestion:

  • Provide information as to how are we measuring the impact of the training?
  • Provide information about why only some staff, teachers, admin are trained in bullying.
  • Measure the impact of train the trainer models.
  • Provide information about why there are not enough professional development hours in the school year (9 months in the year and 1-hour staff training each month).
  • Provide information # Prevention Trainings (breakdown of attendees, and schools).
  • Provide information # Initiatives at schools (breakdown of initiatives and schools and community partners involved).
  • Provide information # Reports of bullying (whether on a form or letter, in person, or via email).
  • Provide information # Substantiated and # Not Substantiated Reports (by school, by type, e.g., protected class).
  • Provide information # Investigations, Consultations, & Mediations (by school, by type, e.g., protected class).
  • Provide information # Safety Plans Created

2. Parents say that the Response to Bullying Complaints is Inappropriate. Our students feel unheard. We want our students to be taken seriously when they come forward.

  • Often parents hear things like,
    – “We hear you, but we could not substantiate any bullying occurred” or
    – “We need to talk about your child’s behavior” (their response to bullying gets more of a reaction than the bullying that caused it) or,
    – “Your child does not understand social cues. They perceive bullying, but it is not happening.”
  • We also have found that those who are tasked with investigating bullying (many times the principal or vice principal) seem more worried about the image of their school being tarnished, especially when it involved discriminatory bullying.
  • Some parents are throwing up their hands and pulling their kids from their neighborhood schools and even our district.
  • We need NEUTRAL investigators of a bullying complaint. Not a person who is already telling us that there was no bullying before the investigation has even happened. Because this is a repeated occurrence, the Coalition recommends that families report bullying that falls under harassment and discrimination to the Office of Civil Rights and having them conduct the investigation as a NEUTRAL entity.

3. The School Climate Collaborative is not accessible to parents/family members. We want this to be expanded to parents, especially parents of students with disabilities, students of color, and LGBTQ students. We are not clear if these meetings open to the public. We are not clear who all of the community partners are. We recommend that they be posted. How can we get everyone to talk about school climate to be involved in planning and partnerships, funding opportunities? Our Coalition is willing to volunteer time to help establish more partners.

a. The Bullying Prevention Coordinator chairs the School Climate Collaborative which is comprised of district staff, community partners, teachers, and students. Members include district staff (SEL, Attendance, LCAP, Constituent Services), community partners, and students.b. The district stated it is working with Community Partners, but “they cannot provide systemic district-wide programs”. Which organizations are supportive to students with disabilities and LGBTQ students?

i. Yo! Disabled and Proud offered to help provide school trainings but their name is not listed on the partnership list.

ii. The LGBTQ Community Center is not listed.

4. We would like our district to track the types of bullying so that prevention and intervention resources can be placed in the right areas.

a. Experiences for student with disabilities, students of color, and LBGTQ students have much overlap. The broader literature on bullying such as information provided by The PACER center has links to clear statistics:

i. The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation. More than one out of every five (20.8%) students report being bullied.

ii. Bullying based on a student’s perceived or actual disability, race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion is considered harassment.iii. Students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. The PACER website has links to the report sources for these stats: for example:

  • Children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.
  • 60% of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.

iv. Students who identify or are perceived as LGBTQ also experience bullying at high rates.

  • 74% of LGBT students were verbally bullied (e.g., called names, threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55.2% because of their gender expression.
  • 36% of LGBT students were physically bullied (e.g., pushed, shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 22.7% because of their gender expression.
  • 49% of LGBT students experienced cyberbullying in the past year.

v. Bullying of students of color

  • 25% of African-American students, 22% of Caucasian students, 17% of Hispanic students, and 9% of Asian students report being bullied at school.
  • This morning the Sacramento Bee reported that CA Muslim students are bullied at nearly twice the national average. A new report shows that 40% of Muslim students reported being bullied because of their faith.
  • More than 1/3 of adolescents reporting bullying report bias-based school bullying.
  • Bias-based bullying is more strongly associated with compromised health than general bullying.
  • Race-related bullying is significantly associated with negative emotional and physical health effects.

5. The effects of bullying are devastating to our youth including behavior problems, mental health issues, low self-efficacy, and poor school adjustment. This extremely concerning as bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related..

  • The Center for Disease Control says that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related. This means youth who report any involvement with bullying behavior are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behavior than youth who do not report any involvement with bullying behavior. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdf
  • Increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression.
  • Mental health and behavior problems.
  • Negative effect on how they feel about themselves (19%), their relationships with friends and family and on their schoolwork (14%), and physical health (9%).
  • Twice as likely as non-bullied peers to experience negative health effects such as headaches and stomachaches.
  • Youth who self-blame and conclude they deserved to be bullied are more likely to face negative outcomes, such as depression, prolonged victimization, and maladjustment

6. Lastly, SCUSD’s anti-bullying policy and this Resolution, need to apply also to adults in our district. We also need to call out when adults bully. It’s not just students who deserve as safe environment.

a. The District’s Anti-Bullying Policy needs to lay down a structure and foundation that applies to the board, admins, teachers, staff, AND students.

b. For example, there have been recent and past incidents when school board members were bullied and harassed (including online) by adults who work for our district and within our district. This must stop immediately. Enough is enough. Parents and community members are not happy about this. It doesn’t reflect well on our district. But most importantly, it does not lead by example.

We hope to receive follow up on our above suggestions and look forward to an open and transparent dialogue. If the district is committed to equity, access and social justice, we need change sooner rather than later. There is a saying that goes, “Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.” We ask that decision makers hear us and demand transparency, collect and review the right information to make meaningful changes, and include all stakeholders to be a heard: students, parents/family members, community members and organizations, staff, teachers, and administrators.

A copy of this statement was provided on 10/17/19 to Jessica Wharton, Bullying Prevention Coordinator, SCUSD