Colorado Model Bullying Policy
What is it, and What it Means for You
The purpose of the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Model Policy is to provide schools, districts, families, and students with resources, tools, and a common understanding of what constitutes best practice for bullying prevention. The second version of this policy was updated in February 2022 and is slated to be revised every three years. Ultimately a goal of the policy is to support greater reductions in bullying for the students of Colorado.
In 2021, the Colorado General. Assembly passed House Bill 21-1221, Bullying Prevention and Education in Schools, which is also known as Jack and Cait’s Law. BRRC contributed to the authoring of the bill and providing testimony to the Colorado General Assembly to help pass the bill. Jack and Cait’s law addresses the following:
- The CDE must utilize the stakeholder process to include parents of students who have been bullied when updating the Model Bullying Policy.
- Requires the Model Bullying Policy to differentiate between conflict, harassment and bullying.
- Clarify the role of cyberbullying during online instruction.
- Requires school districts to ensure that their bullying prevention and education policies, at a minimum, incorporate the approaches, policies and practices outlined in the Model Bullying Policy.
The Model Bullying Policy offers definitions of bullying, types of bullying and roles children partake in bullying. Some important items to note are the following:
- “Often, cyberbullying occurs outside of school hours, off school property, and on personal devices. These behaviors are still within the scope of the school to respond to when it affects a student’s welfare, their ability to access their education, and/or the behavior has a nexus, or connection to the school.”
- The distinct difference between conflict and bullying is discussed.
Conflict = A disagreement in which both sides express their views, they are of equal power, and they generally stop and change behavior when they realize they are hurting someone.
Bullying = The goal is to hurt, harm or humiliate, the person who is bullying has more power, and the behavior continues when they realize it is hurting someone.
- The difference between bullying and harassment is discussed. Both bullying and harassment include actions that hurt or harm another person and the target has difficulty stopping the behavior. The difference is when the bullying behavior is directed at a target is also based on a protected class. That behavior may be deemed as harassment and subject to a school board’s harassment policies. (Protected classes include disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, religion, ancestry, or the need for special education services whether such characteristic(s) are actual or perceived.)
The Model Policy makes strong suggestions to use best practices in bullying prevention tactics and also makes the distinction of bullying prevention approaches to be avoided. Approaches to be avoided are:
- Zero tolerance policies – These are policies that have a one size fits all approach to any bullying activity.
- Peer mediation – Peer mediation can work for conflict between students, however by the very nature that bullying always involves someone with more power, peer mediation can cause additional harm for the target.
- Group treatment for the students who bully – Bringing students who engage in bullying activity into a single group can reinforce aggressive behavior.
- Simple, short-term solutions – Schools that engage in a one-time assembly on bullying prevention, and not follow it up with long-term solutions and systematic approaches are doing a disservice to their student body.
The newest revision of the Colorado Bullying Prevention and Education Model Policy includes the following key items:
- Prohibited behavior includes bullying, retaliation against an individual who reports an act of bullying and making false accusations of bullying against a group or an individual.
- “Bullying and other behaviors as defined above are prohibited on district property, at district or school sanctioned activities and events, when students are being transported in any vehicle dispatched by the district or one of its schools, or off school property when such conduct has a nexus to school or any district curricular or non-curricular activity or event.”
- “The Superintendent will develop a comprehensive program to address bullying at all school levels and that the program is consistently applied across all students and staff.”
- “Any student who believes they have been a victim of bullying and/or other behaviors prohibited by this policy, or who has witnessed such bullying and/or other prohibited behaviors is strongly encouraged to immediately report it to a school administrator, counselor or teacher.”
- Students who engage in acts of bullying, retaliation or false reporting of bullying are subject to appropriate disciplinary actions. These can include suspension, expulsion, and/or referral to law enforcement.
The Model Policy aids Colorado school districts and superintendents in providing guidelines, definitions, best practices, a flowchart of the investigation process, guidelines as to how investigations are to be conducted, a sample bullying report form and a sample investigation checklist to use. Since 2001, all Colorado school districts have been required to have a bullying prevention and education policy as part of their safe school plan. At this point, Colorado does not require school districts to submit or review their bullying prevention policy but does require school districts to ensure that their local district policies do incorporate the approaches, policies, and practices outlined in the Model Policy.
By Dru Ahlborg
Bullying Recovery Resource Center