New Law Allows Counseling Referrals for School Bullying Victims and Witnesses

September 2014

Assembly Bill 1455 (“AB 1455”) expands the Education Code’s anti-bullying provisions to allow school officials to refer bullying victims, as well as those who witness or are affected by bullying, to counseling and other mental health services.

Specifically, the new law, which adds section 48900.9 to the Education Code,  authorizes the superintendent of a school district, the principal of a school, or the principal’s designee to refer “a victim of, witness to, or other pupil affected by” an act of bullying to the school counselor, school psychologist, social worker, child welfare attendance personnel, school nurse, or other school support service personnel for case management, counseling, and participation in a restorative justice program, as appropriate.  AB 1455 applies to acts of bullying that occur on or after January 1, 2015.

Although existing law allows the superintendent or principal—as alternatives to suspension or expulsion—to make such referrals for a student who is subject to discipline for engaging in bullying conduct, it did not, prior to AB 1455, contain similar provisions for those affected by such conduct.

Bullying is defined under Education Code section 48900, subdivision (r)(1), as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including acts of harassment, hate violence, threats or intimidation, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following:

  • Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil's or those pupils' person or property.
  • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health.
  • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance.
  • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

District administrators should be aware of the additional options offered by the new law when faced with an incident of bullying and should consider making appropriate revisions to current anti-bullying policies. 

If you have any questions regarding AB 1455 or any related matter, please call one of our six offices.

F3 NewsFlash prepared by Jonathan P. Read and John W. Norlin.
Jonathan is a partner in the F3 San Diego office.
John is Special Counsel in the F3 San Diego office.

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