Houston adopts groundbreaking anti-bullying policy

The nation’s first anti-bullying policy for school employees, an effort initiated by Houston educational support workers, developed collaboratively with school administration and now part of the district’s standards of conduct for all employees, was announced Sept. 12.

The groundbreaking policy was announced at an event in Houston in which AFT President Randi Weingarten honored Houston Educational Support Personnel President Wretha Thomas, Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier and HISD Board of Education President Juliet Stipeche for their collaborative work.

“Bullying by anyone is unacceptable and this policy states very clearly that everyone deserves to work in an environment that’s civil, respectful and safe,” Weingarten says. Current HISD policy prohibits bullying by students.

Thomas says the policy comes after a decade of reports of bullying among employees, resulting in some frustrated employees quitting.

“We saw a problem and realized we had to not only acknowledge it but fix it,” says Thomas. “Frankly, it could only be effective if we developed the policy through labor-management collaboration and if there was district buy-in to enforce the policy.”

The policy defines bullying as engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct in the workplace that harms an employee or his or her property; creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive environment; exploits an imbalance of power; or interferes with someone’s job or the operation of the work location.

The AFT’s “See a Bully, Stop a Bully: Make a Difference” campaign partners with educators, school leaders, community and advocacy groups to recognize, prevent and combat bullying. The purpose is to raise awareness and provide resources to educators, students and parents.

Weingarten was in Houston as part of her back-to-school visits, highlighting how educators and school staff are leading efforts to reclaim the promise of public education. In Houston, she visited Middle College High School at Houston Community College.