BULLYING PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION
On May 3, 2010 Governor Patrick signed an Act Relative to Bullying in Schools. This new law prohibits bullying and retaliation in all public and private schools, and requires schools and school districts to take certain steps to address bullying incidents. Parts of the law (M.G.L. c.71, § 370) that are important for students, staff, and parents or guardians to know are described below.
These requirements will be included in the Gill-Montague Regional School District’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (“the Plan”), which must be finalized no later than December 31, 2010. The Plan will include the requirements of the new law, and also information about the policies and procedures that the school district will follow to prevent bullying and retaliation, or to respond when it occurs. In developing the Plan, the Gill-Montague Regional School District is consulting with school and local community members, including parents and guardians.
Aggressor is a student who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.
Bullying is the repeated use by one or more students of a 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 to the target’s property; (ii) places the target in reasonable fear of harm to himself/herself or of damage to his/her 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. Bullying includes cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is bullying through the use of technology or any electronic device such as telephones, cell phones, computers, and the Internet. It includes, but is not limited to, email, instant messages, text messages, and Internet postings.
Hostile environment is a situation in which bullying causes the school environment to be permeated with intimidation, ridicule, or insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the student’s education.
Target is a student against whom bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation is directed.
Retaliation is any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment directed against a student who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.
Prohibition Against Bullying
Bullying is prohibited:
• On school grounds,
• On property immediately adjacent to school grounds,
• At a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function, or program, whether it takes place on or off school grounds,
• At a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased, or used by a school district or school,
• Through the use of technology or an electronic device that is owned, leased, or used by a school district or school (for example, on a school computer or over the Internet using a school computer),
• At any program or location that is not school-related, or through the use of personal technology or electronic devices, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the target, infringes on the rights of the target at school, or materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of a school.
Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying is prohibited.
Anyone, including a parent or guardian, student, or school staff member, can report bullying or retaliation. Reports can be made in writing or orally to the principal or another staff member, or reports may be made anonymously. The Gill-Montague Regional School District has created a Bullying Incident Reporting form for anyone – parents, students, staff or community members – to report incidents of bullying. The reporting form is available online via the district website (www.gmrsd.org). The link to the form is on the left hand side of the home page under “Quick Links”. The district’s reporting form will allow for anonymous reporting of alleged incidents if the reporter so chooses, and may be submitted electronically via the district website. Hard copies of the forms are also available in all of the school district buildings.
Staff members are required, by law, to report any suspected acts of bullying to their building administrator, who in turn is responsible for conducting an investigation and notifying the Superintendent of Schools. Reports may also be made directly to the Superintendent of Schools if appropriate or desired. Staff members include but are not limited to: educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to an extracurricular activity, administrative assistants, or paraprofessionals.
When the school principal or his/her designee receives a report, he or she shall promptly conduct an investigation. If the school principal or designee determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, he or she shall: (i) notify the parents or guardians of the target, and to the extent consistent with state and federal law, notify them of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation; (ii) notify the parents or guardians of the aggressor; (iii) take appropriate disciplinary action; and (iv) notify the local law enforcement agency if the school principal or designee believes that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.
Professional Development for School and District Staff
The Gill-Montague Regional School District is committed to provide ongoing professional development to increase the skills of all staff members to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying.
The content of such professional development is to include, but not be limited to: (i) developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying incidents; (ii) developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents; (iii) information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among an aggressor, target, and witnesses to the bullying; (iv) research findings on bullying, including information about specific categories of students who have been shown to be particularly at risk for bullying in the school environment; (v) information on the incidence and nature of cyberbullying; and (vi) Internet safety issues as they relate to cyberbullying.
Additional information about the Gill-Montague Regional School District’s Bullying and Intervention Plan will be made available when it is finalized.