ACLU encourages parents and students to be active participants in the process
Boise, ID—On Monday, January 14th at 6pm the Boise Independent School District (BISD) at their regular Trustee meeting will consider updates to their Harassment, Bullying, Civil Rights Grievance, and related Policies. The ACLU of Idaho commends the School District for their leadership in addressing such policies that have for the most part being deficient statewide and leave students and parents vulnerable to harassment and bullying without the proper mechanism to file grievances.
“Students have a right to feel safe and welcome when they are at school,” said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho. “We commend the Boise School District for strengthening their policies on bullying and harassment and addressing deficiencies in their civil rights grievance policy.”
Among the updates Trustees will consider is adding clarifying language that “harassment, bullying, hazing, and sexual harassment are in effect at the bus stop and on the bus.” In addition, the District will create a simple form to report incidents and will translate the policies into commonly use languages in the District. The updated policy will be made available online for parents and the general public to access.
The ACLU began looking closely at the Boise School District bullying and harassment policies in response to parents contacting the ACLU about harassment incidents. We received a number of complaints from students being harassed at school, but for fear of repercussions, most have been too afraid to disclose their identities in order to make formal complaints to their school districts, even in outrageous situations. A recent study done by Mental Health America and the Gay and Straight Education Network found that 60% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school because of their sexual orientation did not report the incident to teachers or school officials, most commonly because they did not believe anything would be done.
The ACLU of Idaho encourages parents and their students to attend the Trustee meeting to learn of changes being considered. This is also a perfect time for parents, guardians and students to take time to sit down and have a conversation about these serious issues. In the most recent shooting at Taft High School, California, the 16-year old who wounded classmates remarked that he did so because he was bullied. The BISD updates to bullying and harassment policies are a good step to setting up a mechanism for students and parents to be engaged in addressing school related incidents.
The ACLU of Idaho is interested in improving the bullying and harassment policies of every school district in Idaho; especially in light of some efforts to reform these policies could threaten students’ and employees’ First Amendment liberties. We encourage other school districts to take a close look at what the Boise School District is doing and review their own policies. We stand ready to work with any other school district to provide technical support in revising and updating their harassment, bullying, civil rights and related policies.