Investigating Incidents of Bullying, Intimidation and Harassment
The following is from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (2012).
An investigation into a bullying incident should attempt to:
- Identify all the perpetrators and victims.
- Alert victims and their parents of their rights and responsibilities.
- Thoroughly interview participants individually and include alleged victims, perpetrators, and key bystanders. The interviewer should document the discussion.
- The action team reviews the data gathered and makes an objective determination of the level of threat.
- Determine whether there is a confirmed incident ofHIB, and if so, inform the parents or guardians of the victim and the perpetrators of the school’s subsequent process, leading to a specific response.
- Identify and evaluate the kinds of damage caused by the incident.
- Consider all of the other factors necessary for complete corrective action, including encouraging parents to pursue options for redress beyond the local school if they are not satisfied with the result of the school intervention.
- If the HIB is discriminatory, an appeal can be made to other government agencies, such as the division on civil rights.
When an investigation has determined that an HIB incident has occurred, further steps should be taken and documented:
- A member of the action team is selected to carry out the succeeding steps with the support and knowledge
Each school should have an HIB action team, a specialized team that responds to incidents and all other types of victimization.
- A follow-up meeting and discussion is held with the student who has been victimized to obtain further information about the incident and to express the concern and support of the whole school community. The student’s parent or guardian should concurrently be contacted and invited to participate in the intervention process.
- That meeting is immediately followed by an assessment of the victim’s overall social situation at school, with the intention of strengthening support for the student through relationships with staff members and staff member–initiated peer-support methods.
- Such meetings and discussions should be held with the student and his or her parents only.
- The perpetrator and his or her family members and supporters should not be present, involved in, or informed about these meetings.
- Other members of the action team can be involved as appropriate.
- Once the perpetrator is properly identified through the investigative process, a follow-up meeting and discussion should be held with him or her.
- A member of the action team should meet with each accused student, as well as separately with those who witnessed the incident.
- Using a prepared rubric, the principal and a member of the action team (if needed) should inform each perpetrator, in consultation with his or her parents, that HIB incidents are unacceptable to the school and that the school metes out a range of specific consequences for such actions, depending on the frequency and severity of the behavior.
- The student should then be informed of the consequences he or she will face and those consequences should be applied.
- Using a parallel protocol and procedure, provisions are made to follow up with the victim and the bystanders.
- For the latter, consideration is given to each bystander’s emotional state and preparedness to become an “upstander” and take positive action if he or she sees incidents of HIB in the future, including cyberbullying.