Auditors looking at LEAs, CDE and anti-bullying enforcement

Spurred perhaps by disturbing disclosures out of the school shooting incident in Taft earlier this month, the Bureau of State Audits has launched a review of how local educational agencies deal with on-campus bullying as well as state oversight.

The audit, which state schools chief Tom Torlakson announced to district administrators in a letter last week, comes in the wake of the Jan. 10 shooting at Taft Union High School where a student burst into a classroom with a shotgun and critically wounded another student.

The 16-year-old assailant has told authorities that he targeted classmates as retribution for being bullied for more than a year.

State auditors have been specifically tasked with looking at how the California Department of Education supports and monitors LEAs' compliance with state laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

There is an expectation that the review will also produce a set of best-practices for broader dissemination.

District administrators will be asked in the coming weeks to participate in a survey to help the auditors with information gathering. Torlakson has urged all LEAs to participate.

In addition to the shooting at Taft there have been a number of tragic incidents nationally in the recent past where victims of bullying have either taken their own lives or struck violently out against their tormentors - some of which has resulted in new legislation.

The 2010 suicide of 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi was a watershed for California which promoted a variety of anti-bullying legislation.

AB 9, or Seth's Law,' became effective on July, 1, 2012 and requires all schools to adopt anti-harassment and -bullying policies, and to provide a clear process for complaints from students and parents.

The bill expands the list of complaints to include allegations of unlawful intimidation and bullying due "to actual or perceived characteristics such as age, ancestry, color, ethnic group identification, gender expression, gender identity, gender, disability, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation or a person's association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics, in any program or activity that receives or benefits from state financial assistance," according to the CDE website.

Complaints filed under this new law will continue to be processed through a district's Uniform Complaint Procedures or UCP.

A UCP complaint must be filed by way of the Uniform Complaint Procedures as written in the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, sections 4600-4687.

Issues that may involve filing a complaint using the UCP are under various state and federal programs that use categorical funds such as Adult Education, Career Technical and Technical Education and Training Programs, child care and developmental programs, child nutrition programs, Consolidated Categorical Aid Programs, Federal Safety Planning Requirements, Migrant Education, and Special Education programs.

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