- Report Published -
|Study of the Nature and Effectiveness of Virginia School Divisions' Antibullying Policies (HJR 625, 2011)|
|Department of Education|
|HJR 625 (Regular Session, 2011)|
Beginning in 2005, Virginia school boards have been required to include bullying as a part of character education according to § 22.1-208.01 of the Code of Virginia. As well, school boards are to include bullying as prohibited behavior in their student codes of conduct, according to § 22.1-279.6 of the Code of Virginia.
2011 Legislative Responsibility
In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution No. 625, requesting the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to study the nature and effectiveness of local school divisions' antibullying policies. Specifically, the directive of the resolution requested VDOE:
to study the nature and effectiveness of local school divisions' antibullying policies, completing its meetings by November 30, 2011, and submitting to the Governor and General Assembly an executive summary and a report of its findings and recommendations for publication as a House or Senate document ... no later than the first day of the 2012 Regular Session of the General Assembly" (January 11, 2012).
The study directives were:
i. To review and compare "antibullying measures in the student codes of conduct from each school division;"
ii. To compare "existing policies with the Department (of Education's) model policy for codes of student conduct;" and
iii. To determine "if improvements to existing policies are warranted, in order to more effectively combat bullying in Virginia public schools."
In response to this resolution, VDOE surveyed all school divisions regarding policies, regulations, procedures, discipline actions, prevention and intervention programs, and strategies surrounding bullying. VDOE worked with the Center for School Safety within the Department of Criminal Justice Services to utilize school-level data from the 2011 Virginia School Safety Audit (SSA). VDOE contracted with the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University to conduct the study. Methodology of the study included several steps. A review was conducted of bullying policies collected in a VDOE division-level survey and division-written policies posted on school division Web sites. Themes across school division policies were culled. Division-level policies also were compared to ten components of best practice identified by a literature review and review of the policies of states held in high national regard surrounding bullying efforts. Four of the elements of the Board of Education's "Student Conduct Policy Guidelines" (2009) were examined as they coincide with the ten components of best practice. These components are: (1) standards of student conduct; (2) training of school personnel; (3) dissemination and review of standards; and (4) discipline procedures. In addition, school-level activities, programs, and policies as reported by schools in the SSA were examined.
It was found that all school divisions in Virginia meet the requirements of the Code of Virginia and include bullying as a part of character education and as a prohibited behavior. The following table indicates the components included in school division antibullying policies, from most often to least often.
Best Practice Policy Components (*a) Included in Division Policies from Most Often Included to Least Often Included
Policy Component: Intervention with students who bully (*b)
Divisions rated as having component: 98.5% (130)
Policy Component: Definition
Divisions rated as having component: 97.7% (129)
Policy Component: Staff communication and/or training (*b), (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 94.7% (125)
Policy Component: Student education (*b), (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 94.7% (125)
Policy Component: Parent communication, education or survey (*b), (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 88.6% (117)
Policy Component: Intervention with victim(s) (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 25% (33)
Policy Component: Evaluation of programming (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 24.2% (32)
Policy Component: Evidence-based programs required (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 23.5% (31)
Policy Component: Student survey (*c)
Divisions rated as having component: 22% (29)
Policy Component: Feedback from teachers and staff
Divisions rated as having component: 1.5% (2)
(*a) Board of Education (BOE) elements are encompassed in the ten components of best practice policy.
(*b) If bullying was in the student code of conduct/handbook, these components were counted.
(*c) If a response indicated divisionwide implementation of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (21 divisions), these components were counted, since the program includes them.
Other notable findings include:
Overall, 95 percent of all schools responding to the SSA (1,877) provide some form of student education on bullying.
More than half of school divisions (55.3 percent) use the definition of bullying outlined by the Virginia School Board Association. An additional 9.8 percent of divisions have adopted the wording of the sample provided in the Virginia Board of Education's "Student Conduct Policy Guidelines" (2009).
Slightly over 88 percent of all schools responding to the SSA are providing individual counseling to students identified as being bullied.
Eighty-four percent of schools (1,666) indicated on the SSA that they communicate schoolwide rules or policies about bullying to all students.
The vast majority of divisions (98.5 percent) and schools (93 percent) have specific policies regarding interventions that they use when a student is identified as bullying others.
The following are recommendations stemming from the study.
It is recommended that the Virginia Department of Education develop a model comprehensive antibullying policy, using the ten best practice components identified in this study.
The model antibullying policy should include, but not be limited to:
a. A definition of bullying that specifies: (1) aggression, be it physical, verbal or psychological, that is intended to harm; (2) repetition over time; and (3) a relationship with a power imbalance (psychological, social or physical) between perpetrator and target. The third component, that of an imbalance of power, should be added to the Board of Education's example/sample policy provided in the "Student Conduct Policy Guidelines" to support model policy at the division level;
b. Examples of behaviors indicative of bullying, that should be included in student codes of conduct. In this manner, all students and parents may better understand what behaviors are prohibited;
c. Alternatives to suspension and expulsion to address bullying behavior, as supported through research, including providing individual counseling for intervening with students identified as bullying others and individualized and group counseling for students identified as being bullied;
d. Communication, education, and outreach with staff and students, and parents and families;
e. Expectations of staff and students in preventing and addressing bullying.
It is recommended that the Virginia Department of Education provide technical assistance and training for school divisions and schools in best policies, practices and procedures for implementing evidence-based bullying prevention and responding to bullying incidents, including:
a. Identifying bullying behaviors
b. Intervening at the time of the incident (s)
c. Notifying school administration
d. Following up after bullying incidents
e. Establishing an anti-bullying climate within school systems