J - Students



Bullying

NEPN/NSBA Code: JICK

I.      Introduction

It is our goal for our schools to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all students. It is the intent of the Yarmouth School Committee to provide all students with an equitable opportunity to learn.  To that end, the School Committee has a significant interest in providing a safe, orderly, and respectful school environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.

The Yarmouth School Committee believes that bullying, including cyberbullying, is detrimental to student well-being and to student learning and achievement. It interferes with the mission of the schools to educate their students and disrupts the operations of the schools. Bullying and other forms of peer mistreatment affect not only students who are targets but also those who participate in and witness such behavior. 

II.    Prohibited Behavior, referred to throughout this policy as “bullying”.

The following behaviors are prohibited: 

  1. Bullying; 
  1. Cyberbullying; 
  1. Harassment and Sexual Harassment (as defined in Committee policy ACAA); 
  1. Retaliation against those reporting such defined behaviors; and
  1. Making knowingly false accusations of bullying behavior.

Any person who engages in any of these prohibited behaviors shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions.

In adopting this policy, it is not the Yarmouth School Committee’s intent to prohibit students from expressing their ideas, including religious, political and philosophical views that may offend the sensibilities of others, or from engaging in civil debate. However, the Yarmouth School Committee does not condone and will take action in response to conduct that directly interferes with students’ rights at school under applicable laws or with the educational mission, operations, discipline or general welfare of the schools.

III.  Definition of Bullying and Cyberbullying

“Bullying” and “cyberbullying” have the same meaning in this policy as in Maine law:

A.  Bullying” includes, but is not limited to a written, oral or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student or students that: 

1.     Has, or a reasonable person would expect to have, the effect of:

a.     Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property; or

b.     Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to his/her property; or 

2.     Interferes with the rights of a student by:

a.     Creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment for the student; or

b.     Interfering with the student’s academic performance or ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by the school; or 

3.     Is based on:

a.     A student’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, physical or mental disability, or any other distinguishing personal characteristics (such as socioeconomic status; age; physical appearance; weight; or family status); or

b.     A student’s association with a person with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics or any other distinguishing characteristics; and that has the effect described in subparagraph (1) or (2) above.

Examples of conduct that may constitute bullying include, but are not limited to:

1.     Repeated or pervasive taunting, name-calling, belittling, mocking, put-downs, or demeaning humor;

2.     Behavior that is likely to harm someone by damaging or manipulating his or her relationships with others, including but not limited to gossip, spreading rumors, and social exclusion;

3.     Non-verbal threats and/or intimidations such as use of aggressive, menacing, or disrespectful gestures;

4.     Threats of harm to a student, to his/her possessions, or to other individuals, whether transmitted verbally or in writing;

5.     Blackmail, extortion, demands for protection money, or involuntary loans or donations;

6.     Blocking access to school property or facilities;

7.     Stealing or hiding books, backpacks, or other possessions;

8.     Stalking; and

9.     Physical contact or injury to another person or his/her property 

B. “Cyberbullying” means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, including but not limited to, a transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted by the use of any electronic device including, but not limited to, a computer, telephone, cellular telephone, text messaging device or personal digital assistant.

Examples of conduct that may constitute cyberbullying include, but are not limited to the following actions on any electronic medium:

1.     Posting slurs or rumors or displaying any defamatory, inaccurate, disparaging, violent, abusive, profane, or sexually oriented material about a student on a website, an app, in social media, or any other electronic platform;

2.     Posting misleading or fake photographs or digital video footage of a student on websites or creating fake websites or social networking profiles in the guise of posing as the targeted student;

3.     Impersonating or representing another student through the use of that other student’s electronic device or account to send e-mail, text messages, instant messages (IM), phone calls or other messages on a social media website;

4.     Sending e-mail, text messages, IM, or leaving voice mail messages that are mean or threatening, or so numerous as to bombard the target’s e-mail account, IM account, or cell phone; and

5.     Using a camera phone or digital video camera to take and/or send embarrassing or “sexting” photographs of other students. 

C. “Retaliation” means an act or gesture against a student for asserting or alleging an act of bullying. Retaliation also includes knowingly falsely reporting an act of bullying. 

D. “Substantiated” means that the outcomes of the investigation on the Responding Form (JICK-E2) provide clear evidence to prove that bullying or cyberbullying, as defined in policy, did occur. 

E.   “Alternative discipline” means disciplinary action other than suspension or expulsion from school that is designed to correct and address the root causes of a student’s specific misbehavior while retaining the student in class or school, or restorative school practices to repair the harm done to relationships and persons from the student’s misbehavior.

IV.   Application of Policy

A. This policy applies to any student, school employee, contractor, visitor or volunteer who engages in conduct that constitutes bullying or retaliation, all of whom have the responsibility to comply with this policy. 

B. This policy applies to bullying that: 

1.   Takes place at school or on school grounds, meaning a school building; property on which a school building or facility is located; and property that is owned, leased or used by a school for a school-sponsored activity, function, program, instruction or training.  “School grounds” also includes school-related transportation vehicles.

2.   Takes place while students are being transported to or from schools or school-sponsored events;

3.   Takes place at any school-sponsored event, activity, function, program, instruction or training; or

4.   Takes place elsewhere or through the use of technology, but only if the bullying also infringes on the rights of the student at school as set forth in the definition of “bullying.” 

V.    Consequences for Policy Violations

A.   Students

Students who violate this policy may be subject to disciplinary action which may include suspension, expulsion or a series of graduated consequences including alternative discipline or other behavioral interventions.

The administration retains the right to impose disciplinary consequences for bullying and other conduct that occurs at any time or place that substantially disrupts the instructional program, operations of the schools or welfare of students. 

Any student violating this policy may also be subject to civil or criminal penalties. 

B.    School Employees and Others

Administrators, professional staff and all other employees who violate this policy may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, and in accordance with any applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Volunteers, contractors and visitors who violate this policy will be barred from school property until the Superintendent is satisfied that the person will comply with Maine’s bullying law and this policy.

Any person violating this policy may also be subject to civil or criminal penalties.

Any school-affiliated organization that authorizes or engages in bullying or retaliation is subject to forfeiture of Yarmouth School Committee approval/sanctioning and/or suspension or revocation of its permission to operate on school grounds.

VI.   Reporting

Refer to Reporting Form – JICK-E1

Bullying or suspected bullying is reportable in person or in writing (including anonymously) to school personnel.

A. School staff, coaches and advisors for extracurricular and cocurricular activities are required to report alleged incidents of bullying to the school principal or other school personnel designated by the superintendent.  Any other adult working or volunteering in a school will be encouraged to promptly report observed or suspected alleged incidents of bullying to the building principal or school personnel designated by the superintendent. 

B.    Students who are believed to have been bullied or are aware of incidents of bullying are strongly encouraged to report this behavior to a staff member or school administrator.  

C.    Parents and other adults who believe that an incident of bullying has occurred are encouraged to report this behavior to a staff member or school administrator. 

D. Acts of reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports an alleged incident of bullying are prohibited.  Any student who is determined to have knowingly falsely accused another of bullying shall be subject to disciplinary consequences.

VII.  Responding

Refer to the Responding Form – JICK-E2

The school principal or a superintendent’s designee will:

A. Promptly investigate and respond to allegations of bullying behavior;

B. Keep written documentation of all allegations of bullying behavior and outcomes of the investigations, and report alleged and substantiated incidents to the superintendent; 

C.    Inform parent(s) or guardian(s) of the student(s) who was alleged to have bullied AND of the student(s) who was believed to have been bullied that a report of an alleged incident of bullying has been made;

D.   Communicate to the parent(s) or guardian(s) of a student(s) who was believed to have been bullied the measures being taken to ensure the safety of the student(s) who was believed to have been bullied and to prevent further acts of bullying;

E.    Inform parent(s) or guardian(s) of the students involved the findings of the investigation and actions to be taken;

F.   Communicate with local or state law enforcement agency if it’s believed that the pursuit of criminal charges or a civil action under the Maine Civil Rights Act may be appropriate.

VII.         Remediation

Refer to the Remediation Form – JICK-E3

The school principal or a superintendent’s designee will:

A.  Identify the specific nature(s) of the incident.

B.  Apply disciplinary actions, which may include but are not limited to, imposing a series of graduated consequences that include alternative discipline. In determining the appropriate response to students who engage in bullying behavior, school administrators should consider the type of behaviors, the frequency and/or pattern of behaviors, and other relevant circumstances.

Alternative discipline includes, but is not limited to: 

1.   Meeting with the student and the student's parents/guardian;

2.   Reflective activities, such as requiring the student to write an essay about the student's misbehavior;

3.   Mediation, but only when there is mutual conflict between peers, rather than one-way negative behavior, and both parties voluntarily choose this option;

4.   Counseling;

5.   Anger management;

6.   Health counseling or intervention;

7.   Mental health counseling;

8.   Participation in skills building and resolution activities, such as social-emotional cognitive skills building, resolution circles and restorative conferencing;

9.   Community service; and 

   10.  In-school detention or suspension, which may take place during lunchtime, after school or on         weekends. 

C. Remediate any substantiated incident of bullying to counter the negative impact of the bullying and reduce the risk of future bullying incidents, which may include referring the victim, perpetrator or other involved persons to counseling or other appropriate services.

VIII.       Appeal

Notification shall be provided to parent(s), guardian(s) and students of the right to appeal a decision of a school principal or a superintendent's designee related to taking or not taking remedial action in accordance with this policy. The appeals procedure must be consistent with other appeals procedures established by the school Committee and may include an appeal to the superintendent.

IX.    Assignment of Responsibility

A. The School Committee is responsible for ensuring that the Superintendent:

            1.  Annually provides written versions of this policy and related procedures to

                 students, parent(s) and guardian(s), volunteers, administrators, teachers and

                 school staff;

            2.  Posts this policy and related procedures on the school administrative unit's

                 publicly accessible website; and

      3.  Includes this policy in student handbooks a section that addresses in detail this

           policy and related procedures.

X.    Dissemination of Policy

This policy, any associated administrative procedures and the names of the person(s) responsible for implementing the policy/procedure at the school level will be provided, in writing to students, parents, school employees and volunteers in handbooks, and on the school unit’s website and by such other means (if any) as may be determined by the Superintendent.

Legal Reference: 20-A M.R.S.A. § 1001(15), 6554

Cross Reference: AC - Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity

ACAA-R - Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students

ACAD - Hazing

ADF - School District Commitment to Learning Results

CHCAA - Student Handbooks

JI - Student Rights and Responsibilities

JIC - Student Code of Conduct

JICC - Student Conduct on Buses

JICIA - Weapons, Violence and School Safety

JK - Student Discipline

JKD - Suspension of Students

JKE - Expulsion of Students

KLG - Relations with Law Enforcement Authorities

Adopted: May 9, 2013

Revised:  October 13, 2016