3205 Policy – Sexual Harassment of Students Prohibited

Bellingham Public Schools is committed to a positive and productive education free from discrimination, including sexual harassment. This commitment extends to all students involved in academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic and other programs or activities of the school, whether that program or activity is in a school facility, on school transportation or at a class or school training held elsewhere.



For purposes of this policy, sexual harassment means unwelcome conduct or communication of a sexual nature that constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX or Chapter 28A.640 RCW. The term “sexual harassment” under this policy relates to legal definitions, which are described below. The district will refer to legal definitions when responding to potential sexual harassment.


The district prohibits sexual harassment of students by other students, employees or third parties involved in district activities. Sexual harassment can occur adult-to-student, student-to-student or can be carried out by a group of students or adults. The district will respond to sexual harassment even if the alleged harasser is not a part of the school staff or student body.


Under Chapter 28A.640 RCW, the term “sexual harassment” means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature if:

A. Submission to that conduct or communication is made a term or condition, either explicitly or implicitly, of obtaining an education or employment;

B. Submission to or rejection of that conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting that individual’s education or employment; or

C. That conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s educational or work performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or work environment.


A “hostile environment” has been created for a student when sexual harassment is sufficiently serious to interfere with or limit the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to demonstrate a repetitive series of incidents. In fact, a single or isolated incident of sexual harassment may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe, violent or egregious.


Under Title IX, the term “sexual harassment” means conduct on the basis of sex that satisfies one or more of the following:

A. An employee of the district conditioning the provision of an aid, benefit or service on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct;

B. Conduct that creates a “hostile environment,” meaning unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the education program or activity; or

C. “Sexual assault,” as defined in 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(6)(A)(v); “dating violence,” as defined in 34 U.S.C. § 12291(a)(10); “domestic violence,” as defined in 34 U.S.C.
12291(a)(8); or “stalking,” as defined in 34 U.S.C. § 12291(a)(30).


District’s Response

If the district knows, or reasonably should know, about sexual harassment, it will promptly take:

A. Appropriate action to investigate, and

B. Effective steps reasonably calculated to end harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects as appropriate.


Allegations of criminal misconduct will be reported to law enforcement and suspected child abuse will be reported to law enforcement or Child Protective Services. Regardless of whether the misconduct is reported to law enforcement, school staff will promptly respond to sexual harassment to the extent that the response does not interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. A criminal investigation does not relieve the district of its independent obligation to respond to sexual harassment.


Engaging in sexual harassment will result in appropriate discipline or other appropriate sanctions against offending students, staff or other third parties involved in district activities. Anyone else who engages in sexual harassment on school property or at school activities will have their access to school property and activities restricted, as appropriate.


Retaliation and False Allegations

Retaliation against any person who makes or is a witness in a sexual harassment complaint is prohibited and will result in appropriate discipline. The district will take appropriate actions to protect involved persons from retaliation.


It is a violation of this policy to knowingly report false allegations of sexual harassment. Persons found to knowingly report or corroborate false allegations will be subject to appropriate discipline.


Staff Responsibilities

The superintendent will develop and implement formal and informal procedures for receiving, investigating and resolving complaints or reports of sexual harassment. The procedures will include reasonable, prompt timelines and delineate staff responsibilities under this policy.


Any school employee who witnesses sexual harassment or receives a report, informal complaint or written complaint about sexual harassment is responsible for informing the district’s Title IX Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator. All staff are also responsible for directing complainants to the formal complaint process.


Reports of discrimination and discriminatory harassment will be referred to the district’s Title IX/Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator. Reports of disability discrimination or harassment will be referred to the district’s Section 504 Coordinator.


District/school staff, including employees, contractors and agents, will not provide a recommendation of employment for an employee, contractor or agent that the district/school, or the individual acting on behalf of the district/school, knows or has probable cause to believe has engaged in sexual misconduct with a student or minor in violation of the law.


Notice and Training

The superintendent will develop procedures to provide age-appropriate information and education to district staff, students, parents/guardians and volunteers regarding this policy and the recognition and prevention of sexual harassment. At minimum, sexual harassment recognition and prevention and the elements of this policy will be included in staff, student and regular volunteer orientation. This policy and             procedure, which includes the complaint process, will be posted in each district building in a place available to staff, students, parents/guardians, volunteers and visitors. Information about the policy and procedure will be clearly stated and conspicuously posted throughout each school building, provided to each employee and reproduced in each student, staff, volunteer and parent handbook. Such notices will identify the district’s Title IX Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator and provide contact information, including the coordinator’s email address.


Policy Review

The superintendent will make a report as needed to the board reviewing the use and efficacy of this policy and related procedures. Recommendations for changes to this policy, if applicable, will be included in the report. The superintendent is encouraged to involve staff, students, volunteers and parents/guardians in the review process.


Approved By: Greg Baker, Superintendent and Kelly Bashaw, School Board President
Adopted/Previous Revisions: 01/14/16
Adopted/Revised: 01/14/16
Updated: 11/09/22
Superintendent or Board Approved: Board Approved
Legal References: Content

Chapter 26.44 RCW Abuse of Children

Chapter 28A.640 RCW Sexual Equality

Chapter 49.60 RCW  Discrimination—Human Rights Commission

Chapter 392-190 WAC  Equal Educational Opportunity—Unlawful Discrimination Prohibited

20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688 Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972


Management Resources: Content

Policy News, August 2020 New Title IX Rules: A Shift in Federal Regulations

Policy News, July 2015 Sexual Harassment Policy/Procedure updated, now located in both Students (3000) services and Personnel (5000)

Policy News, December 2014 Nondiscrimination in schools address n revised WACs

Policy News, October 2010