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Harassment Training

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

As defined at, "the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands." It can manifest itself as bullying, racial and ethnic harassment or sexual and gender orientation harassment. Harassing actions can be executed face-to-face or via the telephone, email, instant messaging, cell phone text messaging and the Internet. As harassment occurs in and outside of school, it is a leading cause of disruption in the learning environment.

Waunakee Community Middle School is situated in Waunakee, Wisconsin, a suburb of the state capitol of Madison. Under the direction of its long time principal Shelley Weiss, the school has addressed the issue of harassment in an evolving manner that is now a systematic comprehensive approach. Prior to her tenure at Waunakee, Weiss worked with the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute providing training over many years for companies and the military on prevention and elimination of harassment. Having arrived at Waunakee with such experience, she understood the need for harassment training for staff and students.

The initial training effort shared information for preventing harassment and displayed homemade information posters. Over the course of 15 years, the effort has evolved in content, organization and delivery methods to the current systematic approach. The key attributes have been the following:

    •    Leadership consistency and focus
    •    Clearly defined policy
    •    Structured training
    •    Consistent and repeated application
    •    Listening to and acting on feedback from staff and students

The Waunakee Community School District consists of two elementary schools, one intermediate school for grades 5 and 6, a middle school with grades 7 and 8 and the high school. The district serves approximately 3,000 students. The middle school's harassment prevention training now extends to 5th and 6th graders at the intermediate school. By the time 5th graders advance to middle school, they have heard Weiss' harassment prevention presentation twice! They will then receive harassment prevention training two more years while in middle school.

The middle school is organized so all students are assigned to a homeroom that is part of an academic team. The team concept is designed to enhance communication between home and school, provide students with consistent academic and behavioral expectations and assist students in connecting information from one academic area to another. Within their homeroom, students are with one of their four core content teachers every other day. The homeroom is used as the primary delivery system for the harassment prevention training.

The training begins prior to the start of the school year with all district staff. Weiss gives a presentation similar to the one the students receive. As the school year starts at Waunakee Middle School, staff receive an information kit with a program schedule, lesson plan and materials. The middle school teachers are expected to cover the content within the time frame from the start of the school year through October. The training is done early in the school year to set expectations for the students and to give them the information they need to deal with harassing situations.

While the principal initially presented alone, a team consisting of the assistant principal, guidance counselor and police-school liaison officer now delivers the training. However, the principal participates in follow-up activities with the students. At the seventh grade level following the training, the guidance counselor spends time in each home room leading a discussion session involving the students responding to a series of questions in small groups. The group responses are reviewed, and role-playing demonstrations are conducted. At the eighth grade level, the follow-up activity involves showing a video clip to prompt conversations, along with a discussion of the video.

Following the training cycle, staff and students are asked to evaluate the program. With the staff's assistance, the feedback is used to update the program continually to keep it fresh and responsive to students' needs.

In Shelley Weiss' view, it is staff and students who are responsible for their successful work in creating a positive, safe learning environment at the Waunakee Community Middle School. They do so through the harassment prevention training, a consistent application of the policies and students knowing this is a place where harassment is not tolerated.

Waunakee Community Middle School Sample Resources

Bullying and Harassment - The Waunakee Middle School web page addressing harassment.

Student and Family Handbook - Student Behavioral Expectations start at page 40.

Waunakee Community School District Board of Education Policies

Sexual Harassment

Student Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Procedures

Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Form

Source: Content for this document was compiled through an interview with Shelley Weiss, Principal, Waunakee Community Middle School, Waunakee, Wisconsin conducted on January 4, 2005.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and are intended for general reference purposes only. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the Center, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Some resources on this site require Adobe Acrobat Reader. This website archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.