The Guilford County Schools bullying policy is one that is designed to ensure that students can learn in safe environment that encourages learning and growth.
According to the official website, “bullying prevention puts the students’ ability to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment as a top priority. This encompasses making sure that schools within Guilford County are free from harassment, bullying, and discrimination.”
In the Guilford County Schools Student Policy Handbook, there are 28 rules total that students are expected to adhere to. Among those rules is Rule #8: Insulting, Abusive, Harassing, Profane, Obscene, or Seriously Disrespectful Words, Acts of Touching, Gestures, Signs, Verbal Threats, Acts of Bullying or Intimidation, or Other Acts. According to the handbook, students are to respect all people while in school at all times through “utilizing appropriate language and behaviors”. Any action considered “insulting, abusive, harassing, profane, obscene, bullying, intimidating, or seriously disrespectful” will not be tolerated, according to the Handbook.
Furthermore, Rule #8 specifies that “[any action] which disrupts the learning process for any student or which demeans or degrades another person based on his/her race, color, sex, religion, creed, political belief, age, national origin, linguistic and language differences, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, height, weight, physical characteristics, marital status, parental status, or disability is specifically prohibited”.
Guilford County Schools’ policy regarding bullying and harassment is one that also requires separation of personal bias from work.
“Some staff members may very well have their own opinions about some of these issues,” Distric Diversity Officer Monica Walker said, “but when they come to work they need to be prepared to defend the physical and psychological safety of their students. What we are essentially saying is: In this school system, we don’t tolerate someone being harassed for who they are.”
The bullying policy also goes against the controversial House Bill 2 passed by Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican General Assembly, a bill commonly referred to as the “Bathroom Bill”. House Bill 2 itself enacted several policies, the most controversial and well known part of the bill being that transgender people would be banned from using the bathroom of their choice or identity. It is never strictly specified in the bill how such a policy would be enacted or applied in public buildings. House Bill 2 sparked outrage both locally and nationally, being widely protested and causing businesses to pull out.
Students who violate the Guilford County Schools’ bullying policy will face consequences as well. There are 4 levels, or codes, of violations in regards to bullying in the Handbook. They are, respectively: 8-a, the lowest level, which is categorized as verbal abuse; 8-b, or acts of touching without consent of another individual; 8-c, inappropriate gestures and signs that have derogatory meanings; 8-d, acts of bullying and/or intimidation.
The consequences differ for different levels of schooling.
For elementary school, in school disciplinary action is a consequence if the student is found responsible, which repeated or serious violations carrying a penalty of up to three days of out of school suspension.
For middle school, there is in school disciplinary action of up to five days of out of school suspension, and repeated or serious violations carry a potential of long term suspension, defined as two or more weeks in the handbook.
For high school, the consequences are more stringent. Violation of Rule #8, or the bullying policy, carries in school disciplinary action of up to five days of out of school suspension, with repeated or serious violations resulting in long term suspension.
Additionally, the principals of the high schools on a block schedule must consult their Student Services Administrator prior to suspending a student out of school for more than five days.
The training for maintaining a state of neutrality when it comes to the enforcing the bullying policy and encouraging a nondiscriminatory environment is going to take a lot of work, however. According to Walker, “There is training on unconscious bias- issues related to making assumptions about a person without thinking about it- and there is potential for that to help teachers better question assumptions related to gender and gender identity.”