0115-R STUDENT HARASSMENT AND BULLYING PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION REGULATION
The Board condemns and strictly prohibits all forms of discrimination, such as harassment, hazing, intimidation and bullying on school grounds, school buses and at all school sponsored activities, programs and events. Discrimination, harassment, hazing or bullying that takes place at locations outside of school grounds, such as cyberbullying, which can be reasonably expected to materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school or impinge on the rights of other students are prohibited, and may be subject to disciplinary consequences.
Discrimination is the act of denying rights, benefits, justice, equitable treatment or access to facilities available to all others, to an individual or group of people because of the group, class or category to which that person belongs (as listed under Harassment as defined below).
Hazing is an induction, initiation or membership process involving harassment which produces public humiliation, physical or emotional discomfort, bodily injury or public ridicule or creates a situation where public humiliation, physical or emotional discomfort, bodily injury or public ridicule is likely to occur.
Harassment/bullying has been defined in various ways in federal and state law and regulation. The Board recognizes that these definitions are important standards, but the Board’s goal is to prevent misbehavior from escalating in order to promote a positive school environment and to limit liability. The Dignity for All Students Act (§§10-18 of Education Law) defines harassment as the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or by threats, intimidation or abuse, including cyberbullying, that
- has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being;
- reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety;
- reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause physical injury or emotional harm to a student; or
- occurs off school property and creates or would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment, where it is foreseeable that the conduct, threats, intimidation or abuse might reach school property.
For the purpose of this definition, the term “threats, intimidation or abuse” shall include verbal and non-verbal actions.
Harassment/bullying may be based on any characteristic, including but not limited to a person’s actual or perceived:
- national origin,
- ethnic group,
- religious practice,
- sexual orientation, or
- gender (including gender identity and expression).
Although the amended Dignity Act provides a legal definition of bullying, it is the Board’s intention to prevent bullying wherever possible. Accordingly, the Board also defines harassment/bullying to include the definition utilized by the district’s bullying prevention program, Olweus. Pursuant to Olweus’s definition, harassment/bullying includes situations where someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending him or herself.
Harassment/bullying often includes the following characteristics:
- An Imbalance of Power: occurs when a bully uses his/her physical or social power over a target. Students who bully others use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- The Intent to Cause Harm: occurs when the bully seeks to inflict physical or emotional harm and/or takes pleasure in this activity. Determining the intent of an individual who demonstrates bullying behaviors may be difficult. The perception of the person who is the target of those behaviors should also be considered.
- Repetition/Threat of Further Aggression: occurs when the bully and the target believe the bullying will continue. Bullying behaviors generally happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
- Terror: occurs when any bullying increases, and becomes a “systematic violence or harassment used to intimidate and maintain dominance.”
Examples of harassment/bullying include the following:
- Verbal bullying: (which can be delivered orally, electronically or in writing) includes name calling, insulting remarks, verbal teasing, frightening phone calls, violent threats, extortion, taunting, gossip, spreading rumors, racist slurs, anonymous notes, etc.
- Physical bullying: includes poking, slapping, hitting, pushing, shoving, tripping or causing a fall, choking, kicking, punching, biting, pinching, scratching, spitting, twisting arms or legs, damaging clothes and personal property, or using threatening gestures.
- Social/relational bullying: includes excluding someone from a group, isolating, shunning, spreading rumors or gossiping, arranging public humiliation, undermining relationships, teasing about clothing, looks, giving dirty looks, aggressive stares, etc.
- Microaggressions: brief, everyday exchanges, verbal and non-verbal, that send messages to certain individuals that, because of their group membership, they have little worth. These small exclusions, expressions, and gestures are often
overlooked as contributing to negative school climate and over time can cause emotional harm. Some examples include:
(1) avoiding an empty seat in class because it is next to a larger girl; or
(2) heavy sighing to indicate disapproval each time a student of a particular race walks into the classroom.
In some instances, bullying or harassment may constitute a violation of an individual’s civil rights. The district is mindful of its responsibilities under the law and in accordance with district policy regarding civil rights protections.
In order to streamline the wording of this regulation, the term “bullying” will be used throughout to encompass harassment, intimidation, cyberbullying and hazing behaviors.
Prevention is the cornerstone of the district’s effort to address bullying. The components of such an effort involve the following:
- Learning about and identifying the early warning signs and precursor behaviors that may lead to bullying.
- Gathering information about bullying at school directly from students (through surveys and other mechanisms); analyzing and using the data gathered to assist in decision making about programming and resource allocation.
- Establishing clear school wide and classroom rules about bullying consistent with the district’s code of conduct.
- Training adults in the school community to respond sensitively and consistently to bullying.
- Raising awareness among adults, through training, of the school experiences of marginalized student populations (as enumerated in the Definitions section above), social stigma in the school environment, gender norms in the school
environment, and strategies for disrupting bullying or other forms of violence.
- Providing adequate supervision, particularly in less structured areas such as in the hallways, cafeteria, school bus and playground.
- Raising parental awareness and involvement in the prevention program and in addressing problems.
The Superintendent will appoint a district-wide bullying prevention committee, chaired by the district-wide DAC. The committee
will include representation from staff, administration, students and parents. The committee will assist with the development and implementation of the prevention and intervention program, which may include the strategies listed above. Building level committees will be appointed by the building principal and will include representation from staff, administration, students and parents associated with that building.
Role of the Dignity Act Coordinator(s)(DAC)
The Board of Education will annually designate a staff member, who has been thoroughly trained in human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and expression), and sex, as the Dignity Act Coordinator (DAC) for each school, accountable for implementation of this policy. In addition, one will be designated as the district-wide coordinator who will be responsible for ensuring equivalency
in programming across buildings. The building-level DAC will be responsible for coordinating and enforcing this policy and regulation in the school to which they are assigned, including but not limited to coordination of:
- the work of the building-level committees;
- professional development for staff members;
- the complaint process; and
- management of the Dignity Act’s civility curriculum components.
In order for the Board to effectively enforce this policy and to take prompt corrective measures, it is essential that all targets and persons with knowledge of bullying report such behavior immediately to the principal, as soon as possible after the incident so that it may be effectively investigated and resolved. The district will also make a bullying complaint form available on its website to facilitate reporting. The district will collect relevant data from written and verbal complaints to allow for systematic reporting.
Staff who observe or learn of incident(s) of bullying are required, in accordance with State law, to orally report it to their assigned building principal within one school day and to fill out the district reporting form within two school days. If a staff person is unsure of the reporting procedure, he/she is expected to inquire about how to proceed by speaking with his/her supervisor. A district
employee may be deemed to have permitted unlawful discrimination or harassment if he/she fails to report an observed incident, whether or not the target complains
The district will thoroughly, promptly and equitably investigate all complaints, formal or informal, verbal or written. To the extent possible, all complaints will be treated in a confidential manner, although limited disclosure may be necessary to complete a thorough investigation.
In order to assist investigators, individuals should document the bullying as soon as it occurs and with as much detail as possible including: the nature of the incident(s); dates, times, places it has occurred; name of perpetrator(s); witnesses to the incident(s); and the target’s response to the incident.
It is district policy to respect the privacy of all parties and witnesses to bullying. To the extent possible, the district will not release the details of a complaint or the identity of the complainant or the individual(s) against whom the complaint is filed to any third parties who do not need to know such information. However, because an individual’s desire for confidentiality must be balanced with the district’s legal obligation to provide due process to the accused, to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, and/or to take necessary action to resolve the complaint, the district retains the right to disclose the identity of parties and witnesses to complaints in appropriate circumstances to individuals with a need to know. The staff member responsible for investigating complaints will discuss confidentiality standards and concerns with all complainants.
If a complainant requests that his/her name not be revealed to the individual(s) against whom a complaint is filed, the staff member responsible for conducting the investigation shall inform the complainant that:
- the request may limit the district’s ability to respond to his/her complaint;
- district policy and federal law prohibit retaliation against complainants and witnesses;
- the district will attempt to prevent any retaliation; and
- the district will take strong responsive action if retaliation occurs.
If the complainant still requests confidentiality after being given the notice above, the investigator will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the request as long as doing so does not preclude the district from responding effectively to the bullying and preventing the bullying of other students.
Investigation and Resolution Procedure
A. Initial (Building-level) Procedure
Whenever a complaint of bullying is received whether verbal or written, it will be subject to a thorough preliminary review and investigation. Except in the case of severe or criminal conduct, the principal, shall make all reasonable efforts to resolve complaints informally at the school level. The goal of informal procedures is to end the bullying, prevent future incidents, ensure the safety of the target and obtain a prompt and equitable resolution to a complaint.
As soon as possible, but no later than three school days following receipt of a complaint, the principal will begin an investigation of the complaint by:
- Reviewing any written documentation provided by the target(s).
- Conducting separate interviews of the target(s), alleged perpetrator(s), and witnesses, if any, and documenting the conversations.
- Providing the alleged perpetrator(s) a chance to respond and notify him/her that if objectionable behavior has occurred, it must cease immediately. The individual will be made aware of remediation opportunities as well as potential disciplinary consequences.
- Determining whether the complainant needs any accommodations to ensure his/her safety, and following up periodically until the complaint has been resolved. Accommodations may include, but are not limited to:
A hall pass that allows the student to visit a designated adult at any time;
An escort during passing periods;
Students being allowed to stay in the room for an extended amount of time beyond the bell schedule
The district recognizes that there is a need to balance accommodations which enhance student safety against the potential to further stigmatize the targeted student. Therefore, each case will be handled individually, and the student, parent/guardian, and school administration will collaborate to establish safety provisions that best meet the needs of the targeted student.
Follow-up discussion and/or meetings will be scheduled, as needed, to ensure that safety concerns have been adequately addressed and to determine when and if accommodations need to be changed or discontinued.
Parents of student targets and accused students should be notified within one school day of allegations that are serious or involve repeated conduct.
Where appropriate, informal methods may be used to resolve the complaint, including but not limited to:
- discussion with the accused, informing him or her of the district’s policies and indicating that the behavior must stop;
- suggesting counseling, skill building activities and/or sensitivity training;
- conducting training for the department or school in which the behavior occurred, calling attention to the consequences of engaging in such behavior;
- requesting a letter of apology to the target;
- writing letters of caution or reprimand; and/or
- separating the parties.
Appropriate disciplinary action shall be recommended and imposed in accordance with district policy, the applicable collective bargaining agreement or state law. The district will make every reasonable effort to attempt to first resolve the misconduct through non-punitive measures.
The investigator shall report back to both the target and the accused, within 3 school days notifying them in writing, and also in person, as appropriate, regarding the outcome of the investigation and the action taken to resolve the complaint. The actions taken will be in conformance with the Remediation/Discipline/Penalties section of this regulation. The target shall report immediately if the objectionable behavior occurs again or if the alleged perpetrator retaliates against him/her.
If a complaint contains evidence or allegations of serious or extreme bullying, or a civil rights violation, the complaint shall be referred promptly to the Superintendent. The complainant will also be advised of other avenues to pursue their complaint, including contact information for state and federal authorities.
In addition, where the principal has a reasonable suspicion that the alleged bullying incident involves criminal activity, he/she should immediately notify the Superintendent, who shall then contact the school attorney, appropriate child protection and, if appropriate, law enforcement authorities.
Any party who is not satisfied with the outcome of the initial investigation may request a district-level investigation by submitting a written complaint to the Superintendent within 30 days.
B. District-level Procedure
The Superintendent or his/her designee shall promptly investigate and equitably resolve all bullying complaints that are referred to him/her, as well as those appealed to the Superintendent following an initial investigation. In the event the complaint involves the Superintendent, the complaint shall be filed with or referred to the Board President, who shall refer the complaint to an appropriate independent individual for investigation.
The district level investigation should begin as soon as possible no later than three school days following receipt of the complaint by the Superintendent or Board President.
In conducting the formal district level investigation, the district will endeavor to use individuals who have received formal training regarding such investigations or that have previous experience investigating such complaints.
If a district level investigation results in a determination that bullying did occur, prompt corrective action will be taken to end the misbehavior in accordance with the Remediation/Discipline/Penalties section of this regulation.
No later than 30 days following receipt of the complaint, the Superintendent (or in cases involving the Superintendent, the Board-appointed investigator) will notify the target and alleged perpetrator, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation. If additional time is needed to complete the investigation or take appropriate action, the Superintendent or Board-appointed investigator will provide all parties with a written status report within 30 days following receipt of the complaint.
Any party who is not satisfied with the outcome of the district-level investigation may appeal to the Board of Education by submitting a written request to the Board President within 30 days.
C. Board-level Procedure
When a request for review by the Board has been made, the Superintendent shall submit all written statements and other materials concerning the case to the President of the Board.
The Board shall notify all parties concerned of the time and place when a hearing will be held. Such hearing will be held within 15 school days of the receipt of the request of the complainant.
The Board shall render a decision in writing within 15 school days after the hearing has been concluded.
The district shall retain documentation associated with complaints and investigations in accordance with Schedule ED-1.
Any act of retaliation against any person who opposes bullying behavior, or who has filed a complaint, is prohibited and illegal, and therefore subject to disciplinary action. Likewise, retaliation against any person who has testified assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing of a bullying complaint is prohibited. For purposes of this policy,
retaliation includes but is not limited to: verbal or physical threats, intimidation, ridicule, bribes, destruction of property, spreading rumors, stalking, harassing phone calls, and any other form of harassment. Any person who retaliates is subject to immediate disciplinary action up to and including suspension or termination.
Any individual who violates this policy by engaging in bullying will be subject to appropriate action, which may include disciplinary action. Remedial responses to bullying include measures designed to correct the problem behavior, prevent another occurrence of the behavior, and protect the target of the act.
Appropriate remedial measures may include, but are not limited to:
- Peer support group;
- Corrective instruction or other relevant learning or service experience;
- Changes in class schedule;
- Supportive intervention;
- Behavioral assessment or evaluation;
- Behavioral management plan, with benchmarks that are closely monitored;
- Student counseling;
- Parent conferences; or
- Student treatment or therapy.
Environmental remediation may include, but is not limited to:
- School and community surveys or other strategies for determining the conditions contributing to the relevant behavior;
- Modification of schedules;
- Adjustment in hallway traffic and other student routes of travel;
- Targeted use of monitors;
- Parent education seminars/workshops;
- Peer support groups.
Disciplinary measures available to school authorities include, but are not limited to the following:
Discipline may range from a reprimand up to and including suspension from school, to be imposed consistent with the Code of Conduct and applicable law.
Discipline may range from a warning up to and including termination, to be imposed consistent with all applicable contractual and statutory rights.
Penalties may range from a warning up to and including loss of volunteer assignment.
Penalties may range from a warning up to and including loss of district business.
Penalties may range from a warning up to and including denial of future access to school property.
All students and employees shall be informed of this policy in student and employee handbooks, on the district website and student registration materials. A poster summarizing the policy shall also be posted in a prominent location at each school.
All employees shall receive information about this policy and regulation at least once a year.
Principals in each school shall be responsible for informing students and staff on a yearly basis of the terms of this policy, including the procedures for filing a complaint and information about the impact of bullying on the target and bystanders.
Training needs in support of this bullying prevention and intervention program will be reflected in the district’s annual professional development plan, new teacher orientation, in curriculum and will be considered in the budget process. The DAC(s), administrative employees and other staff, such as counselors or social workers who have specific responsibilities for
investigating and/or resolving complaints of bullying shall receive yearly training to support implementation of this policy, regulation and on related legal developments.
Adoption date: November 6, 2014
Revised: January 15, 2015