Safe and Supportive Schools Act
September 18, 2018
Procedures for Investigating, Reporting and Responding to Noncompliance of Bullying Prohibition Policy
The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act requires the Minnesota Department of Education commissioner to develop and post procedures for investigating, reporting and responding to noncompliance of a bullying prohibition policy. The School Safety Technical Assistance Center (center) has developed the departmental procedures that allow students, parents and educators to file a complaint against a district or charter school if they feel the district or charter school does not have a bullying prohibition policy that meets the statutory requirements or is not implementing their bullying prohibition policy according to statutory requirements. It is the role of the district or charter school, not the center, to determine whether bullying has or has not occurred.
Response to Bullying Concerns
Center staff members provide parents, guardians, students, teachers, school personnel, principals, superintendents, school board members and community members with the guidance and technical assistance they need to address bullying issues and improve school climate.
Most often the center receives calls from parents whose child or teen has experienced bullying. During the phone conversations, callers ask for guidance on how they can address the bullying and prevent it in the future. Callers are often parents who want to know how they can best help their child heal, so they can thrive socially and academically in school.
Once learning callers’ concerns, center staff members go over specific approaches or resources they can use to resolve bullying issues directly with the school and support the student who was bullied. After speaking with callers, center staff follow up by providing additional resources to callers and encouraging them to contact the center if more help is needed. Center staff also assess the situation to determine if it would be helpful for the center director to call school or district leadership to offer technical assistance in resolving the issue.
Callers who mention imminent physical or mental harm, sexual violence, harassment or other high-risk situations are immediately transferred to the appropriate resources.
Response to Formal Complaint
In most cases, the technical assistance that the center provides resolves the caller’s problems. In some instances, people have indicated they believe a school district or school is not complying with the school’s bullying prohibition policy or the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act. In those cases, students, parents and educators have the option of filing a formal complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). The department encourages potential complainants to first address their concerns with the school and/or district before filing a complaint with the department. But, this is not required; a complaint can be filed at any time.
The department’s and the center’s primary charge is to help school districts and charter schools implement the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. If a charter school or district is not in compliance, the department and the center constructively collaborate with the charter school or district to make changes to bring them into compliance.
When the department receives a formal complaint, the following steps are taken:
- The formal complaint, a Consent for Release of Information form and all supporting information are submitted to the center director.
- The center director determines if the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, Minnesota Statutes, section 121A.031, applies to the complaint.
- If the law does not apply to the complaint, the center director notifies complainant in writing. Case is closed.
- If a complaint falls outside the jurisdiction of the center, the center will, where appropriate, refer the complaint to the relevant MDE division or other authority. (i.e. Individualized Education Program complaints to MDE Compliance and Assistance Division, Section 504 complaints to the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and discrimination complaints to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights).
- If the law does apply to the complaint, the center director calls the superintendent or charter school executive director to discuss the complaint and offer technical assistance to help resolve the issue. The complaint can be resolved at any point during the formal investigation and can be rescinded by the complainant if they feel the issue has been appropriately addressed.
- A notification letter is sent to the superintendent or charter school executive director requesting that they review the formal complaint and respond to the complaint in writing.
- The district or charter school sends its written response to the center director. The center director sends this response to the complainant.
- The complainant may (but is not required to) respond to the district or charter school’s response.
- The center director reviews the responses and may request additional information through phone conversations, interviews and a site visit. The center director may also request clarification on some issues in writing.
- The center director makes a determination and sends the determination letter to the complainant and the district or charter school. If the investigation finds issues of noncompliance, the letter will include recommendations for steps that the district or charter school can take to improve its bullying prevention efforts.
- The center director will monitor the corrective action and provide technical assistance.
Determine of Compliance Criteria
The primary purpose of the investigation is to determine if a district or charter school is in compliance with its bullying prohibition policy and the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act. During the center’s investigation, we would look to see that a district or charter school met the law’s requirements. Some common issues include:
- Whether the district or charter school has a bullying prohibition policy. Also, whether the bullying prohibition policy has been posted in the school and district offices and/or been communicated to all school personnel, students and parents.
- Whether the charter school or district personnel have made reasonable efforts to intervene and stop the bullying behavior and to protect and support the target of the bullying.
- Whether the district or charter school bullying policy contact/designee has investigated the bullying complaints in a timely, fair and consistent manner.
- Whether reprisal and retaliation occurred.
- Whether due process was allowed for the alleged actor.
- Whether all charter school and district personnel and contractors received training and/or ongoing professional development on the bullying prohibition policy and/or bullying prevention and intervention strategies.