Safe Schools/Healthy Youth
Anti-Bullying — In 2002 the Washington state Legislature passed an anti-bullying law requiring schools to adopt an anti-bullying policy covering all the protected classes in Washington’s hate crimes law, including sexual orientation. In 2007 the scope of the anti-bullying law was expanded to prohibit cyber-bullying by students. In 2009 the definition of sexual orientation was amended to include gender identity and expression.
Meanwhile, the legislature commissioned a report to study the effectiveness of the state’s anti-bullying law. The Report was released in late 2008 and found that bullying in Washington Schools had not diminished. The legislature responded in 2010 by unanimously passing HB 2801, “an act relating to anti-harassment strategies in public schools”. Among its provisions, the new law requires that school districts’ anti-harassment policies and procedures meet minimum standards and be made available to the public.
Compliance with Civil Rights Laws — Washington schools are some of the nation’s most diverse, yet discrimination has remained a persistent problem. Under previous law, the Superintendent of Public Instruction had broad authority to investigate only sex discrimination in school districts. In 2010, the legislature passed HB 3026, giving the Superintendent authority to investigate allegations of all kinds of discrimination and to enforce our laws when violations occur. We have taken the opportunity to show all of our students – including students of color and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students – that we will not tolerate any kind of discrimination in our schools.
If your child is being bullied at school and you need assistance dealing with the school’s administration, the governor’s Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO) helps solve disputes and conflict between families and elementary and secondary public schools that affect student learning. The OEO is part of the Governor’s Office and functions independently from the public school system. Services are conducted over the telephone and are free and confidential. OEO advocates for fair processes for all students. Call 1-866-297-2597.
Sex Education — The Healthy Youth Act passed and went into effect in 2007. The law requires that school districts choosing to teach sex education must follow the 2005 Washington Department of Health guidelines for sexual education. Information provided must be comprehensive and medically accurate.
Additional Resources — Washington has a strong Safe Schools Coalition that will continue to work with the legislature to make sure that Washington State Law reflects best practices in combating bullying and supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth in in schools.
You are not alone. If you, your child or someone you know is being bullied or is at risk of suicide, Safe Schools Coalition has assembled a comprehensive list of toll-free hotlines for you to call.
If you are in crisis anywhere in Washington state, call the Safe Schools Hotline at 1-877-SAFE-SAFE (1-877-723-3723) or fill out their web contact form. Safe School Hotline provides information, referral and advocacy for students, families and educators struggling with anti-gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender bullying, harassment or violence in a public or private elementary, middle or high school. The phone is answered 24 hours a day by the Sexual Assault Hotline and they will have a Safe Schools Coalition Intervention Specialist volunteer get back to you within 24 hours.
The Trevor Project’s Trevor Lifeline is a national 24-hour free and confidential toll-free suicide prevention hotline specifically aimed at gay or questioning youth, geared toward helping those in crisis or anyone wanting information on how to help someone in crisis. All calls are handled by trained counselors who are familiar with gay and questioning youth. Phone: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).
To learn more about how you can help your school develop a positive climate for LGBT students, check out GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Ongoing GLSEN initiatives include Gay-Straight Alliances, No Name Calling Week and Day of Silence.
Check out http://www.stopbullying.gov/
Huffington Post Essay by Debra Chasnoff: Why We Can’t ‘Just Say No’ to Bullying