Ca. schools have until July 1 to adopt anti-bullying policies

California schools have until July 1 to adopt two policies related to students and bullying - one to comply with changes to California law, the other to remain eligible for federal E-rate funding for Internet services.

The new anti-bullying requirements likely will require districts to update inter-district transfer policies and technology use policies.

The first new law requires California school districts to have a policy specifically to address student bullying that includes a comprehensive complaint procedure. Schools also must notify students and staff of the new policy.

According to a client news brief written by Sloan Simmons and Benjamin Rosenbaum of the Lozano Smith law firm, the requirement stems from Gov. Jerry Brown last year signing AB9 to amend the Safe Place to Learn Act.

The act required school districts to adopt policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on disability, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. AB9 amended the act to also prohibit intimidation and bullying based on the same actual or perceived characteristics.

The inter-district transfer policy changes are mandated by AB 1156, signed into law last year. AB 1156 amended California Education Code to state that a student who has been a victim of bullying by a student of the school district of residence must be given priority for inter-district attendance under any existing inter-district attendance agreement. Absent such an agreement, the victim must get "additional consideration for the creation of an inter-district attendance agreement."

The second bullying-related policy school districts must have in place by July 1 pertains to the E-rate program, which provides federally-funded discounts on Internet and internal computer connections for schools.

With congressional passage of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, the Federal Communications Commission last August updated the certification requirements districts must meet under the act to participate fully in the E-rate program.

Districts now must certify their Children's Internet Protection Act Internet safety policy includes provisions for educating students about appropriate online behavior, including cyberbullying awareness and response and how to interact with others on social networking websites and in chat rooms.

Districts that fail to implement the cyberbullying and online behavior education requirements or do not update their policies will be unable to make certifications required to receive Internet access and services and internal computer connections through the E-rate program.

Because the state has not provided model policies and procedures, districts needing assistance preparing and updating policies are encouraged to seek counsel to ensure compliance by the deadline.

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