Bullying prevention takes top priority

Each school district must now have point person for incidents

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Bullying has been a fact of school life for years, but state education official Mike Donlin said there is now more awareness of the issue.

"We now understand better the impact it has, and why it's important to deal with it," said Donlin, supervisor for the School Safety Center, operated by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In 2011, every school district in Washington state was required under a new state law to adopt policies aimed at preventing bullying. Every district must now have a person designated as a primary contact as designated by its harassment, intimidation and bullying policy.

"They are the point people in charge of making sure there's a policy in place," said Donlin.

The district contacts, known as compliance officers, are the "go-to" people, he said.

If a conflict can't be resolved at the classroom or school level, the compliance officer can step in, he said. The compliance officer is also responsible for:

• Receiving copies of formal and informal complaints filed within the school district.

• Ensuring that investigations conducted by the school district are prompt, impartial and thorough.

• Keeping records after investigations are complete.

• Determining the need for both staff and student training.

• Helping district staff and a targeted child's parents or guardians develop a safety plan to protect the student after an incident. That might include having a student check in with designated adults during the school day to making sure someone keeps an eye on the student during passing times.

"Ideally, prevention comes first," Donlin said.

He said a statewide working group is looking at anti-bullying curriculum, training programs and other practices to help school districts.