Bullying Fact Sheet
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School Safety Center

Bullying Fact Sheet

Washington state takes school bullying very seriously.

What is the law?

In 2002, Washington adopted a law prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying in Washington schools. In 2007, Washington amended the law to include electronic forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Each school district is required by RCW 28A.300.285 to have a policy that prohibits the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any student. It is the responsibility of each school district to share this policy with parents or guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees.

For an action to be considered bullying, it needs to meet the following definition:

Harassment, intimidation, or bullying means any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated because of his or her perception of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap or other distinguishing characteristics, when the intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act:

  • Physically harms a student or damages the student's property; or
  • Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's education; or
  • Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
  • Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.

Please visit the Legislature's Web site for specific law:

  • RCW 28A.300.285 Harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention policies -- Model policy and training materials -- Posting on web site -- Advisory committee
  • RCW 28A.600.480 Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying Law - Reporting of harassment, intimidation, or bullying - Retaliation prohibited
  • RCW 28A.635.090 Interference by force or violence – Penalty
  • RCW 28A.635.100 Intimidating any administrator, teacher, classified employee, or student by threat of force or violence unlawful – Penalty

What is OSPI's authority?

OSPI does not have official authority to enforce local rules, with the following exceptions:

How do I report bullying?

If you believe your child is being bullied:

  1. Obtain a copy of your school’s anti-bullying policy and procedures. All schools are required to publish their anti-bullying policies and procedures. A model policy and procedure document is located on OSPI’s Web site, and your school’s policies should look similar to the model policy.
  2. Contact the police if your child has been the victim of malicious harassment. If the bullying act was particularly vicious and the bully seriously injured your child or caused significant physical harm to your child’s property, the bully may be guilty of malicious harassment.
  3. Follow your school's procedures for filing a written complaint. The school is required to conduct an investigation.

What if my complaint is not adequately addressed by the school?

If you feel the school has not adequately addressed the issues, file a written complaint with the district superintendent. The superintendent is required to conduct an investigation.

If you still feel that the superintendent has not adequately addressed the issues, file a complaint with a school board member.

If you still feel that the issues have not been adequately addressed, you may contact your Educational Service District Superintendent or one of the agencies listed below.

Where do I turn for help?

If you feel that bullying is not being adequately addressed by the school system, there are a number of state partners that may be able to assist you.

Washington State Human Rights Commission
Addresses bullying based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender expression, sensory, mental, or physical disability). The Human Rights Commission has staff throughout the state who able to meet with you and investigate the bullying complaint.

Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman
Helps with parent-school conflicts with regionally sited investigators: (866) 297-2597

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Addresses complaints based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age and has a regional office in Seattle: (206) 607-1600

The Safe Schools Coalition
Addresses homophobia and harassment in school based on real or perceived sexual orientation: (877) 723-3723

Washington State Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Has regional offices, and the national PTA provides guidance on bullying.

Community Relations Service
An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides conciliation services to help prevent and resolve racial and ethnic conflict. Contact Sandra Blair, Conciliation Specialist, Northwest Regional Office: (206) 220-6704.


Contact the Safety Center

Safety Center


   Updated 8/6/2015

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