Life at Bement: Anti-Bullying Policy

Anti-Bullying Policy for Bement School

 

I.       Introduction

 

At Bement School (“Bement”), we expect that all members of our school community will treat each other with courtesy and respect.   It is our policy to provide and maintain a learning environment that is free of bullying and any other verbal or physical misconduct that disrupts the learning environment or makes it unsafe.

 

The Bement School Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (“Plan”), set forth below, is published in response to the Massachusetts law against bullying and is an integral part of our efforts to promote learning and to prevent behavior that can impede the learning process.  Our Plan articulates Bement’s comprehensive approach to addressing bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation.

 

This Plan is consistent with broader protections at Bement against discrimination, harassment, bullying, and retaliation that make up the daily interactions among students, faculty, and staff, and which appear in our Family Handbook and Employee Handbook and Personnel Policies.

 

It is important that this Plan be well understood by all members of the Bement community.  The Head of School is responsible for the implementation and administration of the Plan.  Questions and concerns related to this Plan may be referred to her, to the Head of the Upper School, to the Head of the Lower School, to the Dean of Students, or to the Dean of Boarding.

 

II.    Policy Against Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, and Retaliation

 

Bement will not tolerate any form of bullying or cyber-bullying, nor will Bement tolerate retaliation against any person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.

 

Bullying and cyber-bullying are prohibited on school grounds and at school-sponsored or school-related events, activities, functions, and programs, whether on or off school grounds.  Bullying and cyber-bullying are prohibited on school buses, vans, or other vehicles owned, leased, or used by Bement, and through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased, or used by Bement.

 

In addition, bullying and cyber-bullying are prohibited at a location, 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 Bement, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at Bement for a targeted student; infringes on the rights of a targeted student at Bement; or materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of Bement.

 

Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying is prohibited.

 

 A student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action.

 

III.  Definitions

 

“Aggressor” is a student who engages in bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation.

 

“Bullying” is the repeated use by one or more students or school employees of a written, verbal, or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the targeted student in reasonable fear of harm to him or herself or of damage to his or her property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the targeted student at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process, orderly operation of a school, or the working environment at a school.

 

“Cyber-bullying” is bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but 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 communications.  Cyber-bullying shall also include (i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identify of another person or (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 enumerated in the definition of bullying.  Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or 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.

 

“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.

 

“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.

 

“Targeted Student” is a student against whom bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.

 

 

 

Legal Definitions and Bement School Policy

It is important to bear in mind that stricter standards of behavior may apply under Bement’s policies in order to prevent verbal or physical misconduct before a student has been subject to bullying as it is defined under the law.  For example, although the law defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, and/or gestures, Bement reserves the right to apply disciplinary measures and other corrective action in the case of a single expression, act, or gesture, if Bement determines that it is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures or other remedial action or that the repetition of that expression, act, or gesture might reasonably result in bullying as defined under the law.

 

IV.              Prevention of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying

 

From the earliest grades at Bement, students learn that as members of our community, they have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect.  Our curriculum emphasizes respect for differences, and teachers are clear in their expectations for student behavior.  When necessary, parents are notified and are asked to reinforce standards for behavior within our school community.

 

Families receive the Family Handbook and are asked to read and review it each summer. The Family Handbook includes explicit policies around harassment, anti-hazing, and acceptable use of technology at Bement.

 

Morning Meetings are utilized to make sure that students are well informed about what is expected of them and to reinforce positive conduct.

 

Upper School health classes and advisory meetings focus on peer relationships and empower students to take action if they feel targeted or if they witness other students engaging in bullying or other unacceptable behavior.  Similar discussion opportunities exist in all Lower School classrooms as well.

 

V.     Reporting Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, or Retaliation

 

Any Bement employee shall immediately report any instance of bullying or retaliation the employee has witnessed or become aware of to the Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or to the Dean of Boarding.

Any student, parent, guardian or other interested person may report any bullying or suspected bullying to the Head of School,  Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or to the Dean of Boarding as soon as reasonably possible.  The administrator who takes the report will complete the Bullying Incident Report Form.

If an instance of bullying is reported to an employee other than the Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or to the Dean of Boarding, the employee shall immediately inform the Head of School.

 

Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made orally or in writing. Oral reports to a Bement employee shall be recorded in writing.

The Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Boarding, or Dean of Students should keep accurate documentation of all complaints received, including:

·        The name of the complainant

·        The name of the targeted student

·        The status of the complainant (i.e. student, staff, third party)

·        The name of the alleged aggressor

·        The date the complaint was received

·        How the complaint was received (i.e., written, verbally)

·        The nature of the complaint (i.e. facts of the complaint)

·        The names of the witnesses who will be interviewed

 

The Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or Dean of Boarding should ask appropriate questions of the complainant to gather all facts:

·        Who, what, when, where, how?

·        Is there any physical evidence (documents, texts, voicemail)?

·        What will restore the targeted student’s sense of safety?

·        Does the targeted student need protection?  If so, what form should the

                        protection take?

·        What professional services are appropriate to recommend or require?

·        Is notification to local law enforcement required?

 

Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made anonymously.  However, Bement recommends that anonymous reporting be limited because Bement will not take disciplinary action against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

 

Students and parents are encouraged to bear in mind that Bement takes its policy against retaliation very seriously.  While Bement cannot promise strict confidentiality because information must be shared in order to conduct an effective investigation, Bement releases information concerning complaints of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation in compliance with federal and state laws regarding confidentiality of student records.

 

VI.              Responding to a Report of Bullying or Retaliation

 

1.  Safety

 

Upon receipt of and before fully investigating a complaint of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation, the Head of School or designee will make an assessment as to whether any initial steps need to be taken to protect the well-being of students and to prevent disruption of their learning environment while the investigation is being conducted.  As appropriate, strategies such as creating a personal safety plan, rearranged seating, altering schedules, and increased supervision may be implemented to prevent further bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation during an investigation.

2. Notification of Complaint

Bement shall notify the parents of any student who is an alleged target of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation and the parents of any student who may have been accused of engaging in such behavior promptly after a complaint has been made.  Parents or guardians will be notified of the process of responding to the complaint.

If the reported incident involves students from another school, the Head of School or designees will promptly notify by telephone the head of school or designee of the other school of the incident so that each school may take appropriate action.

At any time after receiving a report of bullying cyber-bullying, or retaliation, if the Head of School or designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the Head of School or designee will notify the local law enforcement agency.  If there is a decision to notify the local law enforcement agency, the Head of School or designee shall document the reasons for the decision and immediately contact the local law enforcement agency to discuss the incident and the law enforcement agency’s involvement.

If the Head of School or designee decides not to notify the local law enforcement agency or the local law enforcement agency determines that its involvement is not necessary under the circumstances, the Head of School or designee shall respond to the incident of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation as provided in this Plan.

3.      Investigation

The Head of School or designee will investigate promptly all reports of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation.  The investigation will consist of interviews with students, staff, witnesses, parents, guardians, or others as necessary.  All witnesses, targeted students, and the alleged aggressor shall be reminded that retaliation is also a violation of school policy.  The alleged aggressor shall be warned that the misconduct will, if appropriate, be reported to local law enforcement. Procedures of investigating reports of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation will be consistent with Bement’s policies and procedures for investigations.

VII. Resolution, Notification, and Follow-Up

 

Following interviews and any other investigation undertaken, as Bement deems appropriate, the Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or the Dean of Boarding will determine whether and to what extent the allegation of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been substantiated. If it is determined that the policy set forth in this Plan has been violated, the Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or the Dean of Boarding will determine what disciplinary action and/or other remedial action, if any, is appropriate and how it will be implemented.  Discipline of an aggressor can range from verbal counseling up to and including expulsion from school.

 

The goal of an investigation and any disciplinary or other remedial process that is imposed following that investigation is to correct the situation to the extent it is reasonably possible, to take such steps as can be taken to prevent a repetition of the incident, and to prevent the targeted students and others who participated in the investigation from being subject to retaliation.

 

In appropriate circumstances, such as when a crime may have been committed or when a child may have been subject to abuse or neglect of the type that is reportable under Section 51A of the Massachusetts laws, law enforcement or another appropriate government agency may be notified.

 

Upon completion of the investigation, the Head of School, Upper School Head, Lower School Head, Dean of Students, or the Dean of Boarding who conducted the investigation will meet individually with the targeted student and the student against whom the complaint was made and their parents to report the results of the investigation and, where disciplinary or other corrective action is determined to be appropriate. Bement shall also inform the parents of the targeted student the actions Bement will take to prevent further acts of bullying or retaliation.   The amount of information provided in these meetings may be limited by confidentiality laws protecting student records.

 

Follow-up contacts will be made with any targeted student and his/her parents to inquire as to whether there have been any further incidents and whether any supportive measures are needed.

 

VIII. Access to Resources and Services

 

Bement will work closely with its school counselor to make appropriate referrals to outside services for students and families in need of intervention. 

 

IX.        Training and Professional Development

 

Annual training for all school staff on the Plan will include staff duties under the Plan and an overview of the steps that the Head of School or designee will follow upon receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation. Employees hired after the start of the school year are required to participate in school-based training during the school year in which they are hired, unless they can demonstrate participation in an acceptable and comparable program within the last two years.

 

The goal of professional development is to establish a common understanding of tools necessary for employees to create a school climate that promotes safety, civil communication, and respect for differences. Professional development will build the skills of staff members to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying.  

 

Bement will provide all staff with an annual written notice of the Plan by publishing information about it, including sections related to staff duties, in the Employee Handbook and Personnel Policy and on the school’s website.

 

 

X.     Collaboration with Families

 

Bement will offer education programs for parents and guardians that are focused on the parental components of Bement’s attempts to eradicate bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation.  These programs will often be done in conjunction with the Parents’ Association.

 

Each year Bement will send parents written notice about the student-related sections of the Plan and about the School’s Internet safety policy. All notices and information made available to parents or guardians will be in hard copy and electronic formats, including posting on the School’s website.

 

XI.  Conclusion

 

This Plan is intended (1) to prevent bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation among our

students, (2) to encourage students and their parents to have confidence in Bement’s procedures and to come forward promptly whenever a student is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this or any other School policy; and (3) to implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when warranted.


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