Chris van Es / NewsArt

California auditor says schools should measure if anti-bullying programs are working

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 - 10:56 am

California's state auditor, citing recent high-profile tragedies tied to bullying, called on the Sacramento City Unified School District as well as districts statewide to gauge whether their anti-harassment programs are working.

The auditor found that a large majority of school districts and other public education providers have established policies and complaint processes to combat discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying.

But most around the state, and none of three large districts that the auditor studied, including Sacramento City Unified, adequately evaluated the effectiveness of their programs. The auditor also closely examined the Fresno and Los Angeles unified school districts.

For the review conducted at the state Legislature's request, auditors visited two campuses in each district, including Sutter Middle School and John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento.

While all three districts have imposed policies to stop bullying, the state auditor found none adequately communicated its expectations to officials at individual schools. And all had weaknesses in resolving complaints.

The state auditor also surveyed 1,394 respondent districts, county education offices and charter schools.

Gabe Ross, Sacramento City Unified spokesman, responded that the district was one of the first in the area two years ago to put together a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.

"It's important to note that our kids are safer today than they were two years ago," Ross said. "As the audit points out, there are policies and practices we can improve on. But it really doesn't talk about the big picture."

The state laws and policies aimed at anti-bullying were costly requirements, he said, "and, of course, (state leaders) didn't give us any resources. We've tried to be creative in a challenging environment."

He said the district used grant funds to hire a full-time, anti-bullying specialist, for example.

He called the audit "a helpful cross-section of some of the challenges and issues going on around the state. But it's hardly a scientific study."

The state auditor added that while California law does not require training in bullying prevention, the three districts had taken steps to provide training.

Sacramento City Unified requires school administrators who regularly interact with students to attend two hours of bullying prevention and intervention training every two years. The district also requires administrators to, in turn, provide the training to their respective school staff within a year of their own training.

The auditors found that not all Kennedy High School staff had received their initial training, but were scheduled to do so this month.

Sutter Middle School had trained most of its staff by February 2013.

Call The Bee's Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Loretta Kalb



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