Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) strives to create safe, healthy and nurturing learning environments for every student. PAUSD understands that schools and communities that are physically and emotionally safe for all students promote and support academic achievement, citizenship, school attendance and engagement. Building this environment necessitates a comprehensive approach encompassing education and training for students and staff, partnering with parents and community organizations for site and district programming, collecting and learning from data on student wellness, counseling and crisis prevention services, and Board policies and protocols. Through the dedicated work of parents, staff and students, progress is being made in each of these areas in PAUSD.
PAUSD staff promote student learning in the areas of social-emotional development by providing students with safe and age appropriate opportunities to resolve conflicts, develop strong decision making skills and enhance empathy. The district recognizes that some conflicts are part of the normal developmental process that children experience and that staff must ensure the safety of children while offering genuine opportunities to build resilience and strong social skills for children. The district also maintains a commitment to safety and therefore, it is a violation of district policy for a student to bully, harass, or intimidate another student and exhibit behaviors that infringe upon the safety or emotional well-being of any student; including acts of bullying, intimidation or harassment through words and actions.
School personnel who witness any act of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall take immediate action to intervene (Education Code section 234.1(b)(1)). Every member of the school community is responsible for promoting a positive school culture and ensuring the physical and emotional health of students. Further, there is an expectation that all students, staff, parents, and volunteers demonstrate behavior that is respectful and civil in order to model and support safe school communities.
If you have any questions, contact the Student Services Office at (650) 833-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PAUSD promotes safe school environments for all students by engaging in a wide range of comprehensive and yearlong programs and activities to encourage a positive school culture and resilience in children. These activities focus on pro-active practices to promote safe and welcoming schools, intervention strategies to address student misbehaviors and education for students, parents and staff. Highlighted below is a select list of district initiatives that promote safe and more welcoming schools.
- Active engagement in the Developmental Assets framework to develop resiliency and connectedness for all students;
- Promotion of safe and welcoming school cultures;
- Training teachers and staff in recognizing, intervening, reporting and investigating bullying incidents;
- Enforcing Bullying Prevention and related Board policies (Bullying Prevention policies pending);
- Collecting data to inform, guide and monitor programs and services;
- Offering mental health counseling and support services at all school sites
To prevent the misidentification of bullying behaviors, it is important to understand that Education Code 48900(r) defines bullying as -- Any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including made in writing or by means of an reasonable pupil electronic act including one or more of the following:
Sex Harassment (48900.2)
Hate Violence (48900.3)
Threats, harassment, intimidation (48900.4)
Further, bullying includes one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following: (Education Code 48900 (r)
- Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil's or those pupils' person or property.
- Causing a reasonable pupil or pupils to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health.
- Causing a reasonable pupil or pupils to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance.
- Causing a reasonable pupil or pupils to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
These acts can be reasonably perceived as being dehumanizing, intimidating, hostile, humiliating, threatening, or otherwise likely to evoke fear of physical harm or emotional distress and may be motivated either by bias or prejudice based upon any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; or a mental, physical or sensory disability or impairment; or by any other distinguishing characteristic.
The District recognizes that often conflicts can be learning opportunities for students to develop resilience and problem solving skills that will help them to successfully navigate through life. Therefore, school staffs assess conflicts between children through a lens of safety, child development, age, school level, legal parameters and other factors to determine when problematic behaviors become bullying. Behaviors which constitute bullying may include, but are not limited to, the following:
Verbal: Hurtful name-calling, teasing, gossiping, making threats, making slurs or epithets, making rude noises, or spreading hurtful rumors.
Nonverbal: Posturing, making gang signs, leering, staring, stalking, destroying property, insulting or threatening notes, using graffiti or graphic images, or exhibiting inappropriate and/or threatening gestures or actions.
Physical: Hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, poking, kicking, tripping, blocking egress, strangling, hair pulling, fighting, beating, pinching, slapping, "pantsing", biting, spitting, or destroying property.
Emotional (Psychological): Rejecting, terrorizing, extorting, defaming, intimidating, humiliating, blackmailing, manipulating friendships, isolating, shunning, ostracizing, using peer pressure, or rating or ranking personal characteristics.
Cyber-bullying: Sending insulting or threatening messages by phone, e-mail, Web sites, or any other electronic or written communication. This policy pertains to cyber-bullying that is related to school activity or attendance and is directed toward a pupil or school personnel.
Any student who believes that they are being bullied, has witnessed an act of bullying, or has knowledge of any incidents involving acts of bullying are strongly encouraged to report the incidents to a school official. Upon receiving a written or oral notification of bullying, the site administrator will investigate the matter to determine how to best resolve the issue promptly and appropriately. Issues such as the age of the children, developmental stage, and safety concerns shall be taken into consideration in addressing and resolving complaints of bullying. While not all reports may meet the legal definition of bullying, any incident of inappropriate behavior is dealt with promptly and deliberately. Incidents of bullying may be documented and reported by completing the Palo Alto Unified School District Incident Reporting Form. Upon completion, the form is submitted to the Principal (or designee) of your school for an immediate response. For anonymous reports of bullying, see form to the right. A student who believes that they are being harassed or discriminated against at school or at school activities should immediately bring the matter to the attention of the site administrator or school staff. Cases that involve bullying or harassment based on protected status, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender, ethnic group identification, race, ancestry, national origin, religion, color, or mental or physical disability or any other reason, may be resolved utilizing the district’s Uniform Complain Procedure.
PAUSD’s Bullying Prevention Policy is an attempt to ensure the safety of students by creating simple, clear directions and processes to understand, prevent, intervene in, and address bullying. The proposed Bullying Prevention Board Policy (BP) and Administrative Regulation (AR) were crafted with the input of school administrators and staff, key parent and community partners, including student representatives to capture the values, principles and spirit of the PAUSD community.
The District is engaged in efforts to create documents and tools that will provide guidance and strategies that support safer and more welcoming schools. Thus, information in this section will be updated on an ongoing basis.
Bullying Flowchart [PDF]
The District strives to ensure that every student experiences a safe and welcoming school environment, free from bullying. When students do experience or witness bullying, schools may offer a variety of supports, such as counseling, check-ins, social skills groups, and other programs or services. This is to ensure that students feel safe at school and understand what to do whenever confronted with bullying. Interventions may be offered to the target, aggressor, or bystander. Please contact your site for specific school supports and programs available.
Across the nation, bullying has become one of the primary issues of concern within K-12 education. It is important that incidents of bullying and harassment, especially as they may relate to disability, race/ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, gender expression, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, be addressed and investigated seriously. Best practices, effective strategies, interventions, and resources to prevent and address bullying can be found below.