REPORT: Most Local Educational Agencies Do Not Evaluate the Effectiveness of Their Programs, and the State Should Exercise Stronger Leadership
By Loretta Kalb, Sacramento Bee | http://bit.ly/15aVVw2
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am |Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 - 10:56 am :: California's state auditor, citing recent high-profile tragedies tied to bullying, called on the Sacramento City Unified School District as well as districts statewide to gauge whether their anti-harassment programs are working.
The auditor found that a large majority of school districts and other public education providers have established policies and complaint processes to combat discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying.
But most around the state, and none of three large districts that the auditor studied, including Sacramento City Unified, adequately evaluated the effectiveness of their programs. The auditor also closely examined the Fresno and Los Angeles unified school districts.
For the review conducted at the state Legislature's request, auditors visited two campuses in each district, including Sutter Middle School and John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento.
While all three districts have imposed policies to stop bullying, the state auditor found none adequately communicated its expectations to officials at individual schools. And all had weaknesses in resolving complaints.
The state auditor also surveyed 1,394 respondent districts, county education offices and charter schools.
Gabe Ross, Sacramento City Unified spokesman, responded that the district was one of the first in the area two years ago to put together a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
"It's important to note that our kids are safer today than they were two years ago," Ross said. "As the audit points out, there are policies and practices we can improve on. But it really doesn't talk about the big picture."
The state laws and policies aimed at anti-bullying were costly requirements, he said, "and, of course, (state leaders) didn't give us any resources. We've tried to be creative in a challenging environment."
He said the district used grant funds to hire a full-time, anti-bullying specialist, for example.
He called the audit "a helpful cross-section of some of the challenges and issues going on around the state. But it's hardly a scientific study."
The state auditor added that while California law does not require training in bullying prevention, the three districts had taken steps to provide training.
Sacramento City Unified requires school administrators who regularly interact with students to attend two hours of bullying prevention and intervention training every two years. The district also requires administrators to, in turn, provide the training to their respective school staff within a year of their own training.
The auditors found that not all Kennedy High School staff had received their initial training, but were scheduled to do so this month.
Sutter Middle School had trained most of its staff by February 2013.
From the Report
- Los Angeles Unified’s training requirement differs from the
other two LEAs in that it does not require training specific to
preventing and addressing incidents of discrimination, harassment,
intimidation, and bullying. Instead, it has an expectation that site
administrators and school site staff shall be knowledgeable on all of
- Los Angeles Unified offers training workshops in bullying prevention,
intervention, nondiscrimination,anti-bias, conflict resolution, and
other human relations topics to school sites on an as-needed basis.
- Los Angeles Unified stated that its more than 700 school sites have differing budgets and needs, which precludes it from requiring that school sites implement a single specific program on discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
Instead, Los Angeles Unified allows school sites to develop
strategies that best fit their culture, needs, and budget. It requires
each site administrator to create a school site environment that
upholds the standards of respect and civility and understands that
bullying and hazing are inappropriate, harmful, and unacceptable.
However, Los Angeles Unified does not require each school site
to identify any programs or workshops they are implementing.
- Los Angeles Unified stated that it does not require evaluations of
the effectiveness of its school sites’ prevention programs because
school sites continually adjust their practices according to changing
trends in bullying prevention, which makes a precise analysis
difficult. Moreover, Los Angeles Unified indicated that it does
not have the research staff necessary to conduct district-wide
evaluations; however, it stated that research groups from several
universities are conducting studies on the prevention programs
implemented at some of its schools.
- State regulations require LEAs to complete an investigation and send
a written decision to a complainant within 60 days of receiving a written
complaint alleging violation of a state or federal law.-
- Two of the three LEAs we visited—Los Angeles Unified and Sacramento City Unified—did not always resolve complaints within required time frames. State regulations require LEAs to complete an investigation and send a written decision to a complainant within 60 days of receiving a written complaint alleging violation of a state or federal law. Both Los Angeles Unified’s and Sacramento City Unified’s policies reiterate the 60-day state-mandated time limit. The LEA may extend the time limit if it is able to obtain written permission from the complainant. Otherwise, complaints must be resolved within the 60-day time limit even when an alternative method, such as an alternative complaint process or mediation, is used.
- Los Angeles Unified failed to resolve and provide a written decision
within 60 days for 11 of the 20 UCP complaints we reviewed for
the 2008–09 to 2012–13 school years. Of those 11 complaints, only
two were approved for an extension of time, and the remaining
nine complaints were between three and 62 days late. The UCP
coordinator at Los Angeles Unified explained that his former
understanding was that the 60-day time limit did not include
holidays, weekends, vacation days, and mandated time off.
- Los Angeles Unified’s policy requires school sites to submit
an electronic incident report form for all sexual harassment incidents
involving students. However, of the 18 sexual harassment suspensions
occurring during the 2010–11 through 2012–13 school years at the
two Los Angeles Unified school sites we visited, only one incident
was documented in its electronic reporting system.
To ensure that it is effectively preventing and addressing incidents
of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying in its
schools, Los Angeles Unified should do the following:
• Monitor school sites to ensure that they implement school
• Measure the effectiveness of its school safety programs at both
the district and school site levels.
• Ensure that school sites evaluate the effectiveness of the
programs they choose to implement.
• Resolve complaints within 60 calendar days regardless of the
complaint process selected.
• Ensure that school sites follow the complaint procedures
established in its policies.
LAUSD’s response to these suggestions is on pp 83-85 of the full document below.
The State Auditor’s Response to the LAUSD response follows on pp 87-88 but is best encapsulated in the following paragraph;
“Although Los Angeles Unified describes various ways that it
expects school sites to measure the effectiveness of their programs
to address discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying,
the methods it describes do not provide a formal measurement
of results against expected outcomes.”
An audit is never a happy thing, auditors are fault finders and they find fault – that is their job. When they don’t find fault, they just keep looking. They are relentless. Professionally they believe Inspector Javert was the hero of Les Mis.
The response to findings and the response to the response are he-said/she said arguments. In this case I must say I agree with the auditors’ general premise: LAUSD doesn’t have a very good way of addressing this issue and we are not doing it our way very well.
It’s probably time for a new page, to press Control-Alt-Delete and reboot. This is not a moment for not a critique of the critique.