Bullying Prohibition Policy:
The Dover-Sherborn Public Schools (the “Schools”) are committed to maintaining a school environment where students are free from Bullying and the effects thereof. In accordance with Massachusetts law, the Schools maintain the Dover-Sherborn Public Schools Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (the “Plan”) that sets out in detail the Schools’ procedures for handling allegations and incidents of Bullying and Retaliation. The Plan is available [here – hyperlink] and on each of the school’s websites. If information in this policy contradicts information in the Plan, the Plan will govern in all cases.
Bullying and Retaliation Are Prohibited and Will Lead to Discipline
The Schools absolutely prohibit Bullying and Retaliation against a person who reports Bullying, provides information during an investigation of Bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about Bullying. When Bullying and/or Retaliation is alleged, the full cooperation and assistance of parents and families are expected. Retaliation against a person who reports Bullying, provides information during an investigation of Bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about Bullying also is prohibited.
Bullying is prohibited:
(i) on school grounds; property immediately adjacent to school grounds; at a school sponsored or school-related activity, function or program whether on or off school grounds; at a school bus stop; on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by the school district; or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by the school district and
(ii) 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 school district, if the acts create a hostile environment at school for the target, infringes on the rights of the target at school or materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
Definition of Bullying
Bullying, as defined in M.G.L. c.71, s. 37O, is the repeated use by one or more students or by a member of the school staff of a written, verbal, or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a target that:
● causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage to the target’s property;
● places the target in reasonable fear of harm to the target or of damage to the target’s property;
● creates a hostile environment at school for the target;
● infringes on the rights of the target at school; or
● materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
Bullying may include conduct such as physical intimidation or assault, including intimidating an individual into taking an action against the individual’s will; oral or written threats; teasing; putdowns; name-calling; stalking; threatening looks, gestures, or actions, cruel rumors; false accusations; and social isolation.
Cyber-Bullying, as defined in M.G.L. c.71, s. 37O is Bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which includes, but is not 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 communications.
Cyber-Bullying may include conduct such as sending derogatory, harassing or threatening email messages, instant messages, or text messages; creating websites that ridicule, humiliate, or intimidate others; and posting on websites or disseminating embarrassing or inappropriate pictures or images of others. Cyber-Bullying also includes:
(i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
(ii) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions of the definition of Bullying; and
(iii) 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 more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions of the definition of Bullying.
Definition of Retaliation
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.
Students, parents or guardians, and others who witness or become aware of an instance of Bullying or Retaliation involving a student must report it to the Principal or Assistant Principal of the target’s school. If the Principal is the alleged aggressor, the report should be made to the Superintendent. If the Superintendent is the alleged aggressor, the report should be made to the particular school’s School Committee. Reports may be made anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Reports of Bullying and Retaliation may be submitted orally, in writing, or by submitting the Dover-Sherborn Public Schools Bullying Prevention and Intervention Incident Reporting Form which is available on each school’s website. Hard copies of the Form are also available at each school’s main office, guidance office, and nurse’s office.
The Principal or designee will investigate as soon as reasonably possible a report of Bullying or Retaliation, giving consideration to all the circumstances at hand, including the nature of the allegations and the ages of the students involved. The investigation will include, among other things, interviews of students, staff, witnesses, parents or guardians, and others as necessary. Procedures for investigating reports of Bullying and Retaliation will be in accordance with the Plan and consistent with school or district policies and procedures.
If the determination is made that Bullying and/or Retaliation has occurred, the Principal or designee will take appropriate disciplinary action, notify the parents or guardians of the alleged target(s) and when the alleged aggressor(s) is a student, the parents or guardians of the alleged aggressor(s). If it is believed that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the Principal will notify the Superintendent and the appropriate local law enforcement agency.
Responses to Bullying and Retaliation
Students who are determined to have engaged in Bullying or Retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the Plan and each school’s policies and procedures. Disciplinary action taken will balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. Nothing in this policy is intended to prevent the school administration from taking disciplinary action against a student for conduct that does not meet the definition of Bullying or Retaliation but nevertheless is inappropriate for the school environment. As set out in greater detail in the Plan, if Bullying or Retaliation is substantiated, the school will take steps reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and ensure that the target is not restricted in participating in school or in benefiting from school activities. As with the investigation, the response will be individually tailored to all of the circumstances, including the nature of the conduct and the age of the students involved.
Closing the Complaint and Possible Follow-Up
School staff will provide notice as soon as reasonably possible to the parent/guardian of the target(s) and the aggressor(s) about whether or not the complaint was substantiated and, if substantiated, what action is being taken to prevent any further acts of Bullying or Retaliation. Specific information about disciplinary action taken will not be released to the target’s parents or guardians—unless it involves a directive that the target must be aware of in order to report violations. If appropriate, within a reasonable time period following closure of the complaint, the administrative staff or designee will contact the target to determine whether there has been any recurrence of the prohibited conduct. The district will retain a report of the complaint, containing the name of the complainant, the date of the complaint, investigator, school, a brief statement of the nature of the complaint, the outcome of the investigation, and the action taken. Target/Perpetrator Assistance The school district shall provide counseling or referral to appropriate services, including guidance, academic intervention, and protection to students, both targets and perpetrators, affected by bullying, as necessary. Training and Assessment Annual training shall be provided for school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students in preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying. Age-appropriate, evidence-based instruction on bullying prevention shall be incorporated into the curriculum for all K to 12 students.
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 M.G.L. 71:37O; 265:43, 43A; 268:13B; 269:14A
REFERENCES: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan FIRST READING: November 8, 2022 SECOND READING: January 17, 2023 ADOPTED: January 17, 2023 Source: MASC