ANTI BULLYING POLICY
I . Introduction
The Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School (“Benjamin Banneker” or the “School”) is an urban K - 6 Science and Technology School committed to excellence in education. To that end, Benjamin Banneker is committed to creating a safe learning environment that is free of bullying. Maintaining a safe, supportive, and respectful learning environment is central to the School’s mission of providing students with a high quality education, regardless of students’ race, culture, language or socioeconomic status.
Benjamin Banneker strives to provide and sustain an atmosphere that is free of any verbal, physical or emotional misconduct that might disrupt the learning environment or make it unsafe. The Benjamin Banneker School Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (the “Plan”) set forth below aligns our School mission and our core community principles with the Massachusetts law against bullying. The Plan is an integral part of our ongoing efforts to promote a respectful and healthy community, and to prevent and address behavior that can impede any aspect of the learning process. The Plan details Benjamin Banneker’s comprehensive approach to preventing and responding to incidents of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation.
The Executive Director is responsible for the communication, implementation, and administration of the Plan.
Questions and concerns related to this Plan may be referred to the Executive Director, the Deputy Director, the Behavior Intervention Specialist or the School Wellness Coordinator.
II. Definitions and Prohibition Against Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, and Retaliation
As used in the Plan:
“Bullying” means 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 targeted student that:
i) causes physical or emotional harm to the targeted student or damage to the targeted student’s property;
ii) places the targeted student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself or of damage to his or her property;
iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the targeted student;
iv) infringes on the rights of the targeted student at school; or
v) materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the School.
“Cyber-bullying” means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic device such as a telephone, cell phone, computer, fax machine or the internet. It includes, but is not limited to, facsimile, e-mail, instant messages, images (including picture messages), voice messages, signals, signs, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature, text messages, and internet postings, whether on a webpage, chatroom, social networking website, in a blog, or otherwise. Cyber-bullying also includes: (i) the creating of a webpage or blog in which the creator assumes the identify of another person, and (ii) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation constitutes bullying conduct as defined above.
A “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 a student’s education.
“Retaliation” is any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment directed against any person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying. Retaliation of any sort will not be permitted.
Definitions and School Policy
It is important to bear in mind that stricter standards of behavior may apply under Benjamin Banneker’s policies in order to prevent inappropriate verbal and physical conduct before a student has been subject to bullying as it is defined under the law. For example, although the Plan defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, and/or gestures, the School reserves the right to impose disciplinary measures or other corrective action in a case of a single expression, act or gesture, as well as in a case of inappropriate conduct that may not rise to the level of the legal definition of bullying. This may occur if the School determines that the behavior is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures or other remedial action, or if the repetition of an expression, act, or gesture might result in bullying as defined under the Massachusetts anti-bullying law.
Prohibition Against Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Retaliation
Benjamin Banneker will not tolerate any form of bullying or cyber-bullying. We will also not tolerate any form of retaliation against someone who has reported a case of bullying or cyber-bullying, has provided information during the investigation of bullying, or has witnessed and/or has relevant information to support a report of bullying.
Bullying and cyber-bullying are strictly prohibited on School grounds and at School-sponsored or School-related activities, events, functions and programs, including athletic practices and contests that occur at off-campus locations. Bullying and cyber-bullying are also prohibited on School buses, at School bus stops, on public transportation, on any other form of transportation owned, leased, used or provided by the School, on property immediately adjacent to School grounds, and through use of electronic devices owned (including the School’s network), leased or used by the School.
Bullying or cyber-bullying that occurs at a non-School sponsored activity, event, program, or location – or through use of technology or a device that is not owned, leased, or provided by the School – is prohibited if it creates a hostile school environment for a targeted student, infringes on the rights of a student at School, or if it materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the School.
III. Prevention of Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, and Retaliation
Benjamin Banneker communicates to families our value of creating a safe, nurturing learning environment. Our mission calls on us to value differences and work together, as well as to create a “healthy society.” These values are essential to our creation of a community and are reinforced in a number of ways. These include, but are not limited to, curriculum and adult supervision. It is expected that adults in the community will support the School in the enforcement of rules and behavioral expectations.
In order to achieve the goals of preventing bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation, the School’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan will be one of the required topics addressed by all students, teachers and staff every year.
IV. Reporting Incidents of Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Retaliation
Students: Any student who has witnessed an incident of bullying or cyber-bullying, or otherwise has relevant information regarding bullying or cyber-bullying, is strongly encouraged to report the matter verbally or in writing to the Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist, School Wellness Coordinator, or to any other trusted Benjamin Banneker adult with whom the student is comfortable speaking. Any student who is subject to retaliation, or who knows of another student who has been subjected to retaliation, is urged to report it as soon as possible. Students who knowingly make false accusations of bullying or retaliation may be subject to disciplinary action.
Families: A parent, guardian or family member of a student who has witnessed or who otherwise has relevant information about bullying or cyber-bullying, is strongly encouraged to promptly report the matter to the Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist, School Wellness Coordinator, or to any other trusted Benjamin Banneker adult. Furthermore, a parent or guardian should also report any incident of retaliation to the School.
Teachers and Staff: Any teacher or staff member who witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation is expected to report it to any member of the Administrative Team listed in Section V. Any teacher or staff member who witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation but does not report it may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. A teacher or staff member may not make reports under this policy anonymously, nor make promises of confidentiality to a student, parent or guardian who informs him or her of an alleged incident of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation.
If a teacher or staff member witnesses an act of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation in progress, the teacher or staff member is expected to take reasonable steps to stop the act by communicating directly with the person whose behavior is considered unacceptable, offensive or inappropriate.
Anonymous Reporting: Teachers and staff members may not make reports under this policy anonymously. Students and their parents and guardians may make reports anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Although there are circumstances in which an anonymous report can be better than none at all, it is far more difficult to determine the facts of what occurred if complaints are made anonymously. While the School cannot promise strict confidentiality, because information must be shared in order to conduct an effective investigation, the School releases information concerning complaints of bullying, cyber-bullying and retaliation only as needed to address concerns. The School has made a variety of reporting resources available to the school community for the purpose of making anonymous reports, including, but not limited to, a Harassment Incident Report Form, a voicemail box and a bullying designated email address
V. Responding to a Report of Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, or Retaliation
Administrative Team. In consultation with the Executive Director, an Administrative Team consisting of the Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist, and School Wellness Coordinator will promptly convene, review, evaluate and respond to all reports of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation.
A. Preliminary Considerations: When a complaint of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation is brought to the attention of the Administrative Team, an investigation and initial assessment are made. The primary initial goals of the investigation are to put an immediate end to the bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation, and to protect the well-being and safety of all involved students, including the alleged targets, witnesses person(s) about whom the complaint was made and person(s) who provide information during an investigation of bullying. As appropriate, strategies such as increasing supervision or separation of the alleged perpetrator and targeted student may be used to prevent bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation during an investigation. At this time, the Administrative Team may also make a recommendation to the Executive Director concerning the involved students’ continued attendance at Benjamin Banneker during the investigation.
The School is committed to protecting the physical and emotional well-being of all of its students and will take appropriate measures to do so. Thus, the School will be sensitive to the needs of both the alleged targeted students as well as the alleged bullies.
At any point after receiving a report of bullying, cyber-bullying and/or retaliation, the Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist and/or School Wellness Coordinator shall notify the local law enforcement in the event that the Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist and/or School Wellness Coordinator has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the alleged perpetrator.
If the School receives a report of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation involving students from another school, the Executive Director may, consistent with state and federal law, promptly notify the appropriate administrator of the other school so that both may take appropriate action.
B. Obligation to Notify Parents/Guardians: Promptly after a complaint has been made, a member of the Administrative Team will promptly notify the parents/guardians of any student who is an alleged perpetrator or target of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation.
C. Investigation: Once a complaint has been reported, an investigation of the complaint will be conducted by members of the Administrative Team. The investigation may include, but will not necessarily be limited to, interviews with the person who made the complaint, interviews with the student who was the target of the alleged bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation, interviews with the alleged perpetrator(s), and with any students, teachers, staff members or other persons who witnessed or may otherwise have relevant information about the alleged incident.
All persons will be informed that the School will not tolerate any form of retaliation directed toward an individual who in good faith makes a complaint or participates or cooperates in an investigation. All persons involved in an investigation should understand that false or exaggerated accusations can be extremely damaging to innocent persons; therefore, all claims require the honest and full disclosure of facts by all involved persons. False accusations will not be tolerated and may lead to disciplinary action.
D. Resolution, Notification, and Follow-up: Upon completion of its investigatory actions, the Administrative Team will make recommendations to the Executive Director about any appropriate disciplinary and/or other remedial actions. The Executive Director has final responsibility for any disciplinary responses. Ongoing monitoring and assessment of the Administrative Team’s recommendations for students involved in any incident of bullying, cyber-bulling and retaliation will be carried out by the Administrative Team in close consultation with the students’ advisors.
The goal of an investigation and any disciplinary or other remedial process that is imposed following an investigation is to correct the situation to the extent it is reasonably possible and to take such steps as can be taken to prevent there being a repetition of the incident and to prevent the student or students targeted and others who participated in the investigation from being subject to retaliation.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist, and/or School Wellness Coordinator will meet individually with the student or students who were the targets and alleged perpetrators of the alleged incident, as well as the parents or guardians of these students. The goal of this meeting will be to report the results of the investigation and, where disciplinary or other corrective steps are determined to be appropriate, to inform the individuals of the steps that will be taken to correct the situation. Confidentiality laws protecting student records may limit the amount of information provided in these meetings.
Students that have been targeted in violation of this policy, and their parents or guardians, will be contacted in follow-up conversation to inquire as to whether there have been any further incidents. The Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist and/or School Wellness Coordinator will discuss with the targeted students and their parents or guardians whether any additional steps should be taken so that the targeted students may achieve a restored sense of safety.
Resources are available to all students during and after an investigation. These resources are available to both alleged perpetrators and alleged targets, as well as their parents or guardians. These include gradehead teachers, administrators, the Wellness Coordinator and the Behavior Intervention Specialist.
E. Disciplinary Action: The Executive Director, Deputy Director, Behavior Intervention Specialist, and/or School Wellness Coordinator will decide on the appropriate disciplinary actions for a student that is found to have committed an incident of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation. The range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator for bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior, and includes:
Any student found to have made a false allegation of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation may also be subject to disciplinary action.
VI. Communication and Collaboration with Parents/Guardians
The School’s plan to collaborate with families is designed to increase the capacity of the School to prevent and respond to bullying. The School feels strongly that parent/guardian involvement and collaboration are essential to fostering a School environment free of bullying and creating an effective strategy for responding to incidents of bullying.
The School’s commitment to bullying prevention and efforts taken to address bullying, including the existence of this Plan, are communicated annually in the publication of the School’s Student-Parent Handbook. The Plan is also published on the School’s website.
The School, at least annually, provides parent education sessions addressing the dynamics of bullying, including cyber-bullying and online safety. These education sessions are designed to educate parents about:
· The School’s bullying curriculum and how parents can reinforce and teach the perils of bullying;
· The dynamics of bullying, including the roles of bully, target and bystander; and
· Online safety, cyberbullying, and ways to support cyberbullying prevention at home.
Our School Wellness Coordinator and the Behavior Intervention Specialist are also available to families who want to identify further resources, including local therapists.
VII. Training And Professional Development
A. Annual Staff training on the Plan. The School provides annual training for all School staff which addresses: Staff duties under the Plan; an overview of the steps that the Executive Director generally follows upon receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation; and an overview of the bullying prevention curricula offered at the School. Staff members 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.
B. Ongoing professional development. The goal of the School’s professional development efforts is to establish a common understanding of tools necessary for staff to create a climate at the School 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. As required by M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, the content of schoolwide professional development will be informed by research and will include information on:
(i) developmentally-appropriate strategies to prevent bullying;
(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 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 cyber-bullying; and
(vi) Internet safety issues as they relate to cyber-bullying.
Professional development will also address ways to prevent and respond to bullying or retaliation for students with disabilities that must be considered when developing students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). This will include a particular focus on the needs of students with autism or students whose disability affects social skills development.
Additional areas identified by Benjamin Banneker for professional development include:
• promoting and modeling the use of respectful language;
• fostering an understanding of and respect for diversity and difference;
• building relationships and communicating with families;
• constructively managing classroom behaviors;
• using positive behavioral intervention strategies;
• applying constructive disciplinary practices;
• teaching students skills, including positive communication, anger management, and empathy for others; and
• maintaining a safe and caring classroom for all students.
C. Written notice to Staff. The School will provide all Staff with an annual written notice of the Plan by publishing information about it and including sections related to Staff duties in the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.
This Plan, which is consistent with Benjamin Banneker’s mission and school policies that appear in the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, outlines the School’s bullying, cyber-bullying and retaliation policy and is consistent with the School’s ongoing commitment to fostering a safe, supportive and respectful learning environment for all members of the Benjamin Banneker community. This Plan is intended to (1) prevent bullying and cyber-bullying among our students, (2) encourage students and their parents or guardians to have confidence in the School’s procedures and come forward promptly whenever a student is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this or any other School policy; and (3) implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when they are warranted.