Sometimes people don’t get along. This is not always bullying. Bullying and harassment are behaviors that make someone feel intimidated or offended. Bullying and harassment are unfair, one-sided, usually repeated, and often involve one person using their power over another person.
RCW 28A.600.477 defines harassment, intimidation or bullying as any intentionally written message or image-including those that are electronically transmitted-verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, including gender expression or identity, mental or physical disability or other distinguishing characteristics.
A key characteristic that differentiates “mean behavior” from harassment, intimidation, bullying, discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault is that it creates a “hostile environment” for the victim:
Hostile Environment: an environment created when the conduct is so severe that it limits a student’s ability to participate in, or benefit from, the school’s services, activities, and opportunities. Physical illness, anxiety about going to school, or a decline in grades or attendance could signal a hostile environment.
In addition to defining “hostile environment”, the following definitions are provided to help you determine whether the behavior of concern should be reported to school authorities as an incident of harassment, intimidation, bullying, discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault:
- HARASSMENT: Any one-sided, malicious act which causes physical harm or damages another’s property. It does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. It creates a hostile environment at school.
- INTIMIDATION: Implied or overt threats of physical violence that substantially interfere with a student’s education and creates a hostile environment at school.
- BULLYING: Unwanted aggressive behavior by another person or group that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. It results in physical or educational harm. Cyberbullying is conducted with technology and is bullying. It creates a hostile environment at school.
- DISCRIMINATORY HARASSMENT: Occurs when conduct is based on a student’s protected class (race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, mental or physical disability or other distinguishing characteristics) AND is serious enough to create a hostile environment at school.
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT: Sexual harassment is a form of discriminatory harassment. It is unwelcome behavior or communication that is sexual in nature and:
- Leads the student to believe they must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct or communication to gain something in return, OR
- The conduct substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance or creates a hostile environment
- SEXUAL ASSAULT: In the case of sexual assault, the victim is encouraged to contact 9-1-1 immediately to report the incident to the police. If sexual assault is reported to any school official and the police have not been notified, that official must follow mandated reporting laws and notify law enforcement of the alleged assault. According to Washington State Law, “sexual assault” involves one or more of the following:
- Rape or rape of a child;
- Assault with intent to commit rape or rape of a child;
- Incest or indecent liberties;
- Child molestation;
- Sexual misconduct with a minor;
- Crimes with a sexual motivation;
- Custodial sexual misconduct;
- Sexual exploitation or commercial sex abuse of a minor;
- Promoting prostitution;
- An attempt to commit any of the aforementioned offenses.
Anyone who experiences or sees harassment, intimidation or bullying behavior must report it to school counselors, teachers, or administrators. School administrators will act.