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District gets a 'gold star'

Hillsboro School District is leading the way among Oregon schools in policies and practices to prevent bullying among students.

According to a report published by the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition, Hillsboro ranks in the top third of Oregon’s 197 school districts with a “gold star,” indicating the district’s policies on bullying comply with a tougher Oregon Safe Schools Act that was amended in 2012.

Hillsboro is one of 67 districts statewide that earned a gold star for its policies being in compliance with the Oregon Safe Schools Act, which strengthened protections for students who are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered or are targeted because of their gender identity.

Hillsboro last changed its anti-bulling policy in October 2012 to comply with state law, said Casey Waletich, the district’s director of safety and operations. “We make sure we’re doing all we can to do the right thing,” he said.

All elementary schools in the district utilize the PBIS program — Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports — as well as a grade-level specific bullying prevention program called Steps to Respect.

Waletich said data indicates bullying is beginning at an earlier age and peaks at grades 7-9, so elementary school anti-bullying programs become more and more important.

Additionally, he said, cyber-bulling is becoming more prevalent, even among younger students, partly because students are computer-savvy at a young age.

“We’ve done quite a bit of work talking about current trends,” Waletich said. District officials this fall will begin work with the city of Hillsboro’s Youth Advisory Council to focus more on cyber-bullying prevention. “This is a priority of the superintendent and the school board.”

The shift in recent years to online bullying is a tough one for schools, Waletich said, because much of it happens outside school hours and away from school buildings.

While Hillsboro ranked in the top third of districts with its anti-bullying policies, the report said one in three school districts in the state still do not yet comply with state law.

Beaverton was the only other district in Washington County that was rated with a gold star.

Forest Grove and Banks both had “silver stars,” indicating both districts are compliant with state law but do not expressly reference gender identity and expression as a protected class.

Gaston was given a bronze star, along with 28 percent of school districts in Oregon that still need to update or modify anti-bullying policies to comply with state law.

Fore more information about the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition or to read the full report, see oregonsafeschools.org.



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