Progress made on school bullying

Most Ore. districts comply with laws on harassment policy

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SALEM, Ore. — An advocacy group says Oregon school districts are making progress in complying with state laws on bullying, harassment and intimidation.

The Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition reports that the number of districts with up-to-date policies has doubled over the last year.

Now, it tells the Salem Statesman Journal, nearly two-thirds of the state's 197 school districts meet requirements of Oregon laws passed in 2009 and 2012.

"There's been a lot more thoughtful activities about what schools and communities can do to protect students," said Aaron Ridings, project director for the group.

The Legislature passed a law in 2009 and added reporting and training requirements last year. The group surveys districts to gauge progress on how well their policies meet state requirements.

The group says 55 districts need to make changes in their policies to meet the new standards, while 15 haven't posted their policies and didn't respond to requests for copies.

Policy is just a start, say school officials. The Salem-Keizer district trains employees, volunteers and students on what bullying and harassment looks like, what forms it can take, how to address it early and what's their responsibility.

Still, the district responded to 1,031 reports of bullying in 2011-12.

"It takes a multifaceted approach," Debbie Joa, prevention and protection coordinator for the district. "This includes policies and procedures that are consistently enforced, educating students, training staff and volunteers and collaborating with parents and community members."

The Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition gives "gold-star" status to districts that list gender identity and expression as protected classes, Ridings said.

State law includes them under the definition of "sexual orientation," but it doesn't require districts to list them.

"Research shows transgender students are more likely to be targeted and less likely to be served historically," he said.

When districts list those students specifically, he said, it makes it clear that the district values all students.