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JICFB:  BULLYING PREVENTION & INTERVENTION

The Georgetown Public Schools is committed to providing a safe, positive and productive educational environment where students can achieve the highest academic standards.  No student shall be subjected to harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber-bullying.

 

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING AND RESPONDING TO BULLYING AND RETALIATION

 

The Georgetown Public Schools has implemented the following procedures to receive and respond to reports of bullying or retaliation.  This policy and procedures will ensure that members of the school community -- students, parents, and staff -- know what will happen when incidents of bullying occur.  All reporting forms and procedures will be shared with all school staff members and parents and guardians at the beginning of school each year, including in new student packets throughout the year, and posted on each school's and the district websites.  An anonymous reporting procedure will also be available to families.  Anyone who files a report will be informed of the next steps in the investigatory process.    


        A.    Definitions

                 Bullying may take a variety of forms.  It is unacceptable in a school or work environment.  As a result, no student shall be subjected to harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber-bullying in Georgetown Public Schools:


                1.    "Bullying" means the repeated use by one or more students or by a member of school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional of an unwelcome written, verbal, or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a target that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage the target's property; student or employee, (ii) places the target in reasonable fear or harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the target; (iv) infringes on the rights of the target at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.  For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying.


                2.    "Cyber-bullying" means, bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communication.  Cyber-bullying shall also include (i) knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creator or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v) inclusive, of the definition of bullying.  Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or persons.


                        a.)    Cyber-bullying may occur through the use of data, telephone or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network or any public education institute.

                        b.)    As used in this Section, "electronic communication" also means any communication through an electronic device including, but not limited to a telephone, cellular phone, computer or pager.


                3.    "Aggressor" is a student or member of a school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional who engages in bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation.


                4.    "Target" is a student against whom bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.


                5.    "Retaliation" means any form of intimidation, reprisal or harassment directed against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation about bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.


        B.    Prohibition Against Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Retaliation

                Bullying and retaliation are strictly prohibited:


  • on school grounds;
  • on property immediately adjacent to school grounds;
  • At school-sponsored or school-related activities;
  • At functions or programs whether on or off school grounds;
  • At school bus stops;
  • On school buses or other vehicles owned, leased, or used by the school district; or,
  • Through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by the Georgetown Public Schools.
                Bullying and cyber-bullying and retaliation are prohibited at a location, activity, function or program that is not school-related or through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased or used by the Georgetown school district if the act or acts in question:

  • create a hostile environment at school for the target;
  • infringe on the rights of the target at school; and/or
  • materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
                    As stated in M.G.L. c. 71 ss 370, this Policy and the district's Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan shall not be construed as requiring the district or district schools to staff any non-school related activities, functions, or programs.

            C.    Reporting and Investigating of Bullying
                     The following procedures are based on the requirements of M.G.L. c. 71 ss 370.  In addition to the requirements of M.G.L. c. 71 ss 370, where the alleged conduct is on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, or expression, sexual orientation, disability or religion, the district should also consider whether the conduct constitutes a hostile environment based on those protected classes, consistent with its Discrimination and Harassment Grievance Procedures.

                1.    Reporting bullying or retaliation.  Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made by staff, students, parents, or guardians, or others, and may be oral or written.  Oral reports made by or to a staff member will be recorded in writing.  A school or district staff member is required to report immediately to the principal or designee any instance of bullying or retaliation the staff member becomes aware of or witnesses.  Reports made by students, parents or guardians, or other individuals who are not school or district staff members, may be made anonymously.  The school or district will make a variety of reporting resources available to the school community including, but not limited to, an Incident Reporting Form, a dedicated mailing address, and an email address.

                Use of an Incident Reporting Form is not required as a condition of making a report.  The school or district will:  1) include a copy of the Incident Reporting Form in the beginning of the year packets for students and parents or guardians;  2) make it available in the school's main office, the counseling office, the school nurse's office, and other locations determined by the principal or designee; and 3) post it on the school's website.  The Incident Reporting Form will be made available in the most prevalent language(s) of origin or students and parents or guardians.

                At the beginning of each school year, the school or district will provide the school community, including administrators, staff, students, and parents or guardians, with written notice of its policies for reporting acts of bullying and retaliation.  A description of the reporting procedures and resources, including the name and contact information of the principal or designee, will be incorporated in student and staff handbooks, on the school or district website, and in information about the Plan that is made available to parents and guardians.

                (a)    Reporting by Staff
                A staff member will report immediately to the principal or designee when he/she witnesses or becomes aware of conduct that may be bullying or retaliation.  The requirement to report to the principal or designee does not limit the authority of the staff member to respond to behavioral or disciplinary incidents consistent with school or district policies and procedures for behavior management and discipline.

                (b)    Reporting by Students, Parents, or Guardians, and Others
                The Georgetown Public Schools expect students, parents or guardians, and others who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying or retaliation involving a student to report it to the principal or designee.  Reports may be made anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against the alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report.  Students, parents or guardians, and others may request assistance from a staff member to complete a written report.  Students will be provided practical, safe, private and age appropriate ways to report and discuss an incident of bullying with a staff member or with the principal or designee.

                2.    Responding to a report of bullying or retaliation

                        (a)    Safety
                        Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying or retaliation, the principal or designee will take steps to assess the need to restore a sense of safety to the alleged target and/or to protect the alleged target from possible further incidents.  Responses to promote safety may include, but not be limited to, creating a personal safety plan; pre-determining seating arrangements for the target and/or the aggressor in the classroom, at lunch, or on the bus; identifying a staff member who will act as a "safe person" for the target; and altering the aggressor's schedule and access to the target.  The principal or designee will take additional steps to promote safety during the course of and after the investigation, as necessary.

                        In determining the steps necessary to restore a sense of safety to the alleged target and/or to protect the alleged target from possible further incidents, the principal or designee shall consider that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical developmental or sensory disability or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.

                        The principal or designee will implement appropriate strategies for protecting from bullying or retaliation a student who has reported bullying or retaliation, a student who has witnessed bullying or retaliation, a student who provides information during an investigation, or a student who has reliable information about a reported act of bullying or retaliation.

                        (b)    Obligations to Notify Others
                        (i)    Preliminary Notice to Parents or Guardians.  There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee contacts the parents or guardians prior to investigation or an investigative determination.  Any such Notice will be consistent with the state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.

                        (ii)    Notice to another School or District.  If the reported incident involves students from more than one school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private special education day or residential school, or collaborative school, the principal or designee first informed of the incident will promptly notify by telephone the principal or designee of the other school(s) of the incident so that each school may take appropriate action.  All communications will be in accordance with state and federal privacy laws and regulations, and 603 CMR 49.00.

                        (iii)    Notice to Law Enforcement.  At any point after receiving a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, if the principal or designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the principal will notify the Georgetown Police Department.  Notice will be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and locally established agreements with the local law enforcement agency.  Also, if an incident occurs on school grounds and involves a former student who is no longer enrolled in school, the principal or designee shall contact the Georgetown Police Department if he or she has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.

                        In making this determination, the principal will, consistent with the Plan and with applicable school or district policies and procedures, consult with the school resource officer, if any, and other individuals the principal or designee deems appropriate.

                   3.    Investigation
                    Upon receipt of a report or complaint that would, if true, constitute bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation, the principal or principal's designee will promptly commence an investigation.  In investigating any such complaint, the principal or designee will interview students, staff, and any witnesses to the alleged conduct.  To the extent practicable and consistent with the principal's obligation to act promptly and to thoroughly investigate and address the matter, the principal or designee will maintain confidentiality during the investigation process and shall not disclose unnecessary or confidential information to interview subjects.  During any such interviews, the principal will inform the target, aggressor, and all witnesses that retaliatory treatment of any individual for reporting or lack of cooperation with an investigation of bullying will result in disciplinary action may include suspension or expulsion from school.

                    Interviews may be conducted by the principal or designee, other staff members as determined by the principal or designee, and in consultation with the school counselor, as appropriate.  To the extent practicable, and given his/her obligation to investigate and address the matter, the principal or designee will maintain confidentiality during the investigative process.

                    Procedures for investigating reports of bullying and retaliation will be consistent with school or district policies and procedures for bullying investigations.  If necessary, the principal or designee will consult with legal counsel about the investigation.
                
                    At any point after receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, the principal shall notify the Georgetown Police Department and School Resources Officer if the principal has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.  Notice shall be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and established agreements with the local law enforcement agency.  The principal shall document the reasons for his or her decision to notify law enforcement.  Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to require reporting to a law enforcement agency in situations in which bullying and retaliation can be handled appropriately within the school district or school.

                    4.    Determinations
                    Within fourteen (14) school days of the principal's receipt of the complaint of bullying cyber-bullying, or retaliation, the principal will make a determination based upon all the facts and circumstances.  If, after the investigation, bullying or retaliation is substantiated, the principal will determine what remedial action may be required, if any, and determine what responsive actions and/or disciplinary action is necessary.  The principal's findings and determinations shall be documented in writing on the Incident Report Form.

                    If the principal or designee determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.

                    Depending upon the circumstances, the principal or designee may choose to consult with the students' teacher(s) and/or school counselor, and the target's or aggressor's parents or guardians, to identify any underlying social or emotional issue(s) that may have contributed to the bullying behavior and to assess the level of need for additional social skills development.

                    5.    Notice of Investigative Findings
                     Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal or designee will promptly notify parents or guardians of the target and aggressor of this, and of the procedures for responding to it.  While prior notice of an investigation shall not be required, the principal shall not be precluded from notifying the parents of a target or aggressor prior to completion of the principal's investigation.  This communication will be done in the primary language of the home.

                    In notifying the parents of a target or aggressor of an investigation or the principal's findings thereon, the principal shall maintain the privacy and confidentiality of any individual or child who is not the child of the parents to whom the notice is provided.  The principal shall ensure that any notice to the parents complies with applicable state regulations including, but not limited to, 603 CMR 49.00, and shall not report specific information to the target's parent(s) about the disciplinary action taken against an aggressor unless it involves a "stay away" order or other directive that the target must be aware of in order to report violations.

                    The notice to the parents or guardians of the victim shall include information about the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's ("DESE") problem resolution system and the process for seeking assistance or filing a claim through the problem resolution system.  The parents of the victim should be provided the following contact information:  Program Quality Assurance Services, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA  02148-4906, Telephone 781-338-3700; TTY: N.E.T. Relay: 1-800-439-2370.

        D.    Responses to Bullying

            1.    Teaching Appropriate Behavior Through Skills-building

                    Upon the principal or designee determining that bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has occurred, the law requires that the school or district use a range of responses that balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.  M.G.L> c. 72 ss 370(d)(vi).  Georgetown Public Schools administrators and staff may consider the following skill-building approaches:  

  • offering individualize skill-building sessions based on the school's/district's anti-bullying curricula;
  • providing relevant educational activities for individual students or groups of students, in consultation with guidance counselors and other appropriate school personnel;
  • implementing a range of academic and nonacademic positive behavioral supports to help students understand pro-social ways to achieve their goals;
  • meeting with parents and guardians to engage parental support and to reinforce the anti-bullying curricula and social skills building activities at home;
  • adopting behavioral plans to include a focus on developing specific social skills; and
  • including offerings, supports and, where appropriate, individual behavior plans addressing the recognition that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sec, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.
            2.    Taking Disciplinary Action

                    If the principal or designee decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the principal or designee, including the nature of the conduct, the age of the student(s) involved, and the need to balance accountability with the teaching of appropriate behavior.  Discipline will be consistent with the Plan and with the school's or district's code of conduct.  Possible consequences to serious incidents of bullying include suspension and expulsion from school.

                    Discipline procedures for students with disabilities are governed by the federal individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), which should be read in cooperation with state laws regarding student discipline.

                    If the principal or designee determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.

            3.    Promoting Safety for the Target and Others

                    The principal or designee will consider what adjustments, if any, are needed in the school environment to enhance the target's sense of safety and that of others as well both while the investigation is pending, if necessary, and subsequent to a determination that bullying has occurred.  One strategy that the principal or designee may use is to increase adult supervision at transition times and in locations where bullying is known to have occurred or is likely to occur.  He/she may also implement a safety plan.  In developing a safety plan, the principal or designee shall consider that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sec, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.

                    Within a reasonable period of time following the determination an the ordering of remedial and/or disciplinary action, the principal or designee will contact the target to determine whether there has been a recurrence of the prohibited conduct and whether additional supportive measures are needed.  If so, the principal or designee will work with appropriate school staff to implement them immediately.

           E.    Collaboration with Families

                    Georgetown Public Schools is committed to promoting a strong home-school partnership regarding bullying prevention.  Each school will provide information to families that will support common language across the district as well as sharing prevention and identification strategies.  Communication between home and school will be via school notices, school and district web sites, and parent conferences/presentations on a regular basis.

                    It will also focus on school and district-specific approaches to collaboration which will take into account age, climate, socio-economic factors, linguistics, and cultural make-up of students and the parents.

                    1.    Parent education and resources.  The school or district will offer education programs for parents and guardians that are focused on the parental components of the anti-bullying curricula and any social competency curricula used by the district or school.  The programs will be offered in collaboration with the PTO, School Councils, Special Education Parent Advisory Council, or similar organizations.

                    2.    Notification requirements.  Each year the school will inform parents or guardians of enrolled students about the bullying prevention curricula that are being used.  This notice will include information about how parents and guardians can reinforce the curriculum at home and support the school district or school plan, the dynamics of bullying, including cyber-bullying and online safety.  The school or district will send parents written notice each year about the student-related sections of the Plan and the school's or district's Internet safety policy.  All notices and information made available to parents or guardians will be in hard copy and electrconic formats, and will be available in the language(s) most prevalent among parents or guardians.  The school or district will post the Plan and the district Bullying Prevention and Harassment Policy and related information on its website.

                F.   Vulnerable Students

                        The Georgetown Public Schools recognizes that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sec, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.  The Georgetown Public Schools will take steps to prevent the bullying, harassment and teasing of this vulnerable population.

               G.    Relationship to other Laws

                        Consistent with state and federal laws, and the policies of the Georgetown Public Schools, no person shall be discriminated against in admission to a public school in Georgetown or in obtaining the advantages, privilege and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.  Nothing in the plan prevents the school or district from taking action to remediate discrimination or harassment based on a person's membership in a legally protected category under local, state, or federal law or school or district policies including the Discrimination and Harassment Grievance Procedures.

                        In addition, nothing in the Plan is designed or intended to limit the authority of the school or district to take disciplinary action or other action under M.G.L. c. 71 ss 37H, 37H1/2, 37H 3/4, or other applicable laws. or local school or district policies in response to violent, harmful, or disruptive behavior, regardless of whether the Plan cover the behavior.

REFERENCES:  Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan               



  

 

LEGAL REFS.:          Title VII, Section 703, Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended

                                    Federal Regulation 74676 issued by EEO Commission

                                    Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

                                    603 CMR 26:00

                                    MGL 71:370

                                    MGL 265:43, 43A

                                    MGL 268:13B

                                    MGL 269:14A  

                                    MGL 76:5

                                    Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2014                       

 

 

 

CROSS REFS:            AC, Nondiscrimination

                                    ACAB, Sexual Harassment

                                    JBA, Student-to-Student Harassment

                                    JICFA, Prohibition of Hazing

                                    JK, Student Discipline Regulations

 

Adopted on:      April 10, 2008

Revised on:       October 1, 2010

Revised on:       October 24, 2013
Revised on:        August 28, 2014

 

      
 
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