An interpretive policy analysis of bullying law and the development of bullying policy in a central Florida school district
Bullying has been an issue in schools and became a major concern for school leaders over the past two decades. Olweus (1993) defined three characteristics of bullying behavior: intent to harm another, repeated offenses, and a perceived or real power imbalance. This study examined the law’s provisions concerning bullying in schools; specifically examining the Florida Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Student Act (2008), and the required policy implemented in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS). Discourse theory framed the study, as defined by Habermas (1996) and the derivative Interpretive Policy Analysis was used to analyze the district policy, as defined by Yanow (2000). The study utilized four research questions to examine bullying law and policy: what constitutional, statutory, and case law said about bullying; bullying policies in literature; development of bullying policy and how closely it matched law. Constitutional law laid the foundation of the school system. Statutory law provided more details and at the state level, defined requirements concerning bullying. Bullying laws existed in 44 states, the majority addressing one or more of Olweus’ components. HCPS developed its bullying policy in the fall, 2008, closely following requirements of Florida bullying law. The district had a student conduct policy prior to new requirements and a violence prevention committee (VPC) met monthly. The VPC formed a smaller committee including administrators, teachers, parents, students, and law enforcement members, to develop the policy. The committee examined each component of the state model policy, and either used the item verbatim or added additional information specific to HCPS. The district exceeded state requirements for some items such as extending the definition of bullying to include employees and visitors. Overall, bullying laws were designed to protect students from harmful behaviors. The district policy was designed to achieve this task; however, it was also seen as a means to avoid lawsuits and to protect the district’s interests. Implications included the need to update laws/policies continually to reflect the current times, such as new technologies, and the interpretation of laws and eventual implementation in schools. In addition, the interpretive policy analysis process used in this study could be applied to other studies examining the policy development process.
0449: Educational leadership
0458: Education Policy
0461: School Administration
0553: Legal Studies