Students are to maintain an environment free of harassment of any kind, including but not limited to harassment based upon race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Students are to treat one another with courtesy and respect at all times. No student shall be subjected to acts of harassment, retaliation (or intimidation), bullying, or cyberbullying as defined under Procedures 6.16 A. Procedures for reporting, investigating, and resolving alleged issues of harassment, retaliation, bullying or cyberbullying are described in school handbooks, and in the district’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan, and are summarized herein under Procedures 6.16A.
c. 71, S37 O
BULLYING AND HARASSMENT PROCEDURE (6.16A)
Harassment includes, but is not limited to, such things as: threats, unsolicited remarks, gestures, physical contact, or the display of written materials or pictures.
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 student that:
- causes physical or emotional harm to the target student or to the student’s property
- places the target student in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself, or of damage to his/her property
- creates a hostile environment at school for the target student
- infringes on the rights of the target student at school or
- materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of the school
Cyberbullying 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 means, photo electronic or photo-optical system including, but not limited to, electronic mail, instant messages, or facsimile communications.
Cyberbullying also shall include the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or knowingly impersonates another person as author of posted comments or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in the definition of bullying.
Cyberbullying also shall 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 more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions enumerated in the definition of bullying.
Bullying and cyberbullying may occur in and out of school, during and after school hours, at home and in locations outside of the home. When bullying and cyberbullying are alleged, the full cooperation of parents and families is expected.
Bullying is 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 Hingham Public Schools, or
- through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased, or used by the school district
Bullying and cyberbullying 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 Hingham Public Schools if the act or acts in question:
- create a hostile environment at school for the target student;
- infringe on the rights of the target student at school; and/or,
- materially and substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
Prevention and Intervention Plans
The principal of each school is responsible for the implementation and oversight of the school bullying prevention and interventions plan within his/her school environment. Parents and students shall be made aware annually of the school plan and such plan shall be reviewed (and updated as needed) at least biennially. An overview of the components of the plan follows:
Students who believe that they are targets of bullying, observe an act(s) of bullying, or who have reasonable grounds to believe that these behaviors are taking place, are expected to report such incidents promptly to a member of the school staff. The target student, however, shall not be subject to discipline for failing to report bullying.
Each school in the district has designated and made known to students a means for anonymously reporting incidents of bullying. However, no formal disciplinary action shall be taken solely on the basis of an anonymous report. As well, any student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying shall be subject to disciplinary action.
Parents or guardians or members of the community are urged to report an incident of bullying as soon as is practicable.
Any member of the school staff shall report immediately to the principal or his/her designee an instance of bullying that the staff member has become aware of or has witnessed.
The principal or designee, upon receipt of a viable report, of bullying or cyber-bullying, shall promptly notify the parents or guardians of both the alleged target and aggressor students; and actions being taken to investigate and to prevent further acts of bullying shall be discussed.
The principal or designee shall investigate promptly the report of bullying as described on the district’s reporting form. The investigation may include interviewing the alleged target and aggressor students, staff members, or other witnesses. Upon receipt of a report of alleged bullying (and during the period of investigation), school staff shall assess the alleged target student’s needs for protection and create and implement a safety plan to restore a sense of safety for that student. Confidentiality shall be used to protect a person who reported bullying, provides information during the investigation of bullying, or is witness to or has reliable information about an act of bullying.
In most instances, the investigation shall be completed within two weeks of the date of the report. The parents or guardians of the target and aggressor student(s) shall be contacted promptly upon completion of the investigation and informed of the results of the investigation and, if bullying or retaliation is found, what actions are in place to prevent further acts of bullying or retaliation and the procedures for responding to bullying. Information shared will be respectful of the rules of confidentiality that guide school operations. If the investigation requires a longer period, the principal or designee will contact the parents on a regular basis to update them on the status of the investigation or about related matters.
Responses to Bullying or Cyberbullying
If the principal or designee determines that bullying has occurred he/she shall take appropriate disciplinary action as described in the Discipline Code; in certain cases, the principal shall consult with the school resource officer or seek legal advice as to whether criminal charges are warranted. If that is the determination, the Hingham Police Department shall be formally notified.
To respond to student needs that are identified by the school, academic or counseling support, interventions, or referral to an outside agency may be provided to target or aggressor students. Available resources and referral procedures are described in the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan.
Each school will document all incidents of bullying that are reported; and the principal shall maintain a file for review as part of the investigation and to meet other mandated reporting requirements.
Retaliation and Intimidation
Retaliation against or intimidation of a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying is prohibited; and such acts are subject to disciplinary procedures.
Training and Assessment
Annual training shall be provided for school employees who have significant contact with students in preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying.
Age-appropriate, evidence-based instruction on bullying prevention is incorporated into the instructional program for students at all levels as per the school and district bullying prevention and intervention plans.
Publication and Notice
Annual written notice of the relevant sections of the bullying prevention and intervention plans shall be provided to students and their parents or guardians, using age-appropriate terminology and via print or electronic means.
Annual written notice of the plans shall be provided to all staff; and the faculty and staff at each school shall be trained annually on the plan applicable to the school.
Relevant sections of the bullying prevention and intervention plans that relate to the responsibilities and duties of the faculty and staff shall be included in the school handbook and/or the district’s employee handbook, as appropriate to the employee category.
The district bullying prevention and intervention plan shall be posted on the district website.
LEGAL REFERENCES: Title VII Section 703, Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended
Federal regulations 74676 issued by the EEO Commission
Title IX of the U,S, 1972 Civil Rights Act
603 CMR 26.00
MGL 71: 37 O
MGL 265:43, 43a
MGL 269: 14a
MGL, 151 C