Victims of Bullying May be Given Priority or Additional Consideration for Interdistrict Transfers

On October 9, 2011, Governor Brown signed AB 1156.  The law, similar to AB 9 (also approved by Governor Brown on October 9, 2011, and about which we previously reported), is an anti-bullying measure aimed at giving victims of bullying priority or special consideration for interdistrict transfers.  The law amends Sections 32261 (Interagency School Safety Demonstration Act of 1985), 32282, 32283, 46600, and 48900 of the Education Code.

Specifically, the new law requires that a pupil, who is deemed a victim of bullying committed by a pupil of the school district of residence, be given priority for interdistrict attendance to the school district of proposed enrollment under any existing agreement.  If the district of residence and district of proposed enrollment do not have an interdistrict transfer agreement in place, the victim shall be given additional consideration for the creation of an interdistrict transfer agreement.  The pupil may be deemed a “victim of bullying” by personnel of either the school district of attendance or the school district of proposed enrollment.

The legislation emphasizes in a statement of intent that these student victims “should be accommodated if they desire to attend another school, even if that school is located in another school district.”  This statement highlights that a transfer should be based on the victim’s desire, and not a substitute for the district’s authority and obligation to take action to prevent and remediate bullying behavior.

To bolster the authority to discipline bullies the new law, which takes effect July 1, 2012, also amends the definition of bullying under Section 49800.  It specifies that bullying means any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, as defined, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, hate violence, or harassment, threats, or intimidation, that has the effect or can reasonably be predicted to have the effect of: 1) placing a reasonable pupil in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property; 2) causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health; 3) causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance; or 4) causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.  Although pupils were previously subjected to suspension and recommendation for expulsion based on acts of bullying, the new law provides clarity as to what acts constitute “bullying.”

Finally, the law encourages the inclusion of policies and procedures aimed at the prevention of bullying in comprehensive school safety plans, and requires the Department of Justice and State Department of Education to contract to provide training in the prevention of bullying.

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