This week’s question comes from William B. in Diamond Heights, who asks:
Q: “My daughter is mixed race. She has been called names at school like mocha and dirty. She goes to public school. She is very hurt and ashamed and I understand that this is not the first time. She is coming home crying and not wanting to go back to school. What can I do to help her? What rights does she/I have?”
A: William, you should be concerned and you are a good parent for getting involved. Bullying has reached epidemic proportions in American schools. The California Legislature has acknowledged this and has mandated that local school districts adopt anti-bullying and anti-discrimination rules to provide a threat-free educational environment. The San Francisco Unified School District has complied with this requirement and has adopted an Anti-Bullying Code.
The following comes, in large part, from the SFUSD online publications regarding anti-bullying. Generally, any pupil who feels that he/she has been subjected to discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying should immediately contact the principal, or any other staff member, or the compliance coordinator. In addition, any pupil, or teacher, who observes any such incident should report the incident to the principal or compliance coordinator, whether or not the victim files a complaint. Teachers have an obligation to intervene, when safe, to stop the bullying. The District prohibits any form of retaliation against any pupil who files a complaint or report regarding an incident of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
Pupils who engage in discrimination, harassment, intimidation, bullying, or retaliation in violation of law, board policy, or administrative regulation shall be subject to appropriate discipline, up to and including counseling, suspension, and/or expulsion. Any employee who permits or engages in prohibited discrimination, harassment, intimidation, bullying, or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
Complaints should also be filed with the SFSUD Office of Equity, Director, Office of Equity, 555 Franklin Street, Room 306, San Francisco, CA 94102, Telephone: 415) 355-7334 – Facsimile: (415) 355-7333. Complainants names should be held confidential to the extent possible and retaliation is prohibited. A very good online resource, that contains complaint forms can found by be searching “San Francisco Unified School District Office of Family Voice.”
Complaints generally need to be filed within six months from the date of the occurrence. If there is a continuing pattern, then it should be reported as soon as possible and complaints outside the six month window may be considered. The compliance coordinator then has five days to provide you with the SFUSD’s Board Policy and Administrative Regulations setting forth the rights you have and the steps, and time lines associated with the process. First they will try and mediate the problem. If that fails then they proceed with a formal investigation that must be completed, and a formal report issues, within 60 days. The complainant is entitled to a copy of the report and the decision/finding. If discipline is warranted they shall reveal that corrective action has been taken but they may keep that form of action confidential.
If you are unhappy you can, within 15 days of the decision, appeal the determination to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. After 60 days have passed following the filing of an appeal, you may seek civil remedies, through the courts, seeking damages and injunctive relief (orders from the court to stop or change certain behaviors/policies). Try and work it out with the school and, as a last result, get a good trial lawyer to protect your daughter’s rights.