Bullying Intervention Policy

THE GREAT BARRINGTON RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL BULLYING INTERVENTION POLICY

I. Introduction

The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School expects all members of our school community to treat each other with civility and respect. It is the policy of the School to provide a learning and working environment for students, faculty, staff, parents and visitors that is free from bullying.
This bullying intervention policy is an integral part of our efforts to maintain a safe environment for our students, to promote the learning of respectful and acceptable behavior and to prevent behavior that can impede the learning process. It is important that this policy be well understood by all members of the GBRSS community.

The Board of Trustees and the Council of Teachers, through the Faculty Administrator, share the responsibility for the implementation and administration of the policy.

II. Definitions

The following definitions are drawn from the Massachusetts law against bullying.
A. “Aggressor” is a student who engages in bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation.

B. “Bullying” is defined as 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 that:
• causes physical or emotional harm to the targeted student or damage to the targeted student’s property
• places the targeted student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or
herself or of damage to his or her property
• creates a hostile environment at school for the targeted student
• infringes on the rights of the targeted student at school
• materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the
orderly operation of the school.

C. “Cyber-bullying” is bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include telephones, cell phones, computers, fax machines and the Internet. It includes, but is not limited to, e-mail, instant messages, text messages, and Internet postings, whether on a webpage, in a blog, or otherwise.

Cyber-bullying shall also include
• the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person.
• 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.
• 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.

D. “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.

E. “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.

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

III. Policy Against Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Retaliation

The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School hereby prohibits bullying and/or cyber-bullying:

1. 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, or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by the School; and,
2. 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, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the victim, infringes on the rights of the victim at school or materially and substantially disrupts the education process, the orderly operation of the school or the working environment.
Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying is hereby prohibited.
False accusations of bullying or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action.

This policy does not require The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School to staff any non-school related activities, functions or programs.

Legal Definitions and School Policy
It is important to bear in mind that stricter standards of behavior may apply under GBRSS’s policies in order that we may 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 law defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, and/or gestures, the School reserves the right to apply disciplinary measures and other corrective action in a case of a single expression, act or gesture, if the School determines that it is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures.

IV. Prevention of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying

From early childhood through the grades, students and adults are to know that, as members of our community, they have a right to be treated with civility and respect. Our curriculum and our school culture, supported by our Social/Emotional Health Program, emphasize respect for differences among all members of our community. We strive to assure all children and adults that they will be safe and treated honorably and expect them, in turn, to treat others in a comparable manner.

At the beginning of each school year standards of conduct, including the Star Code, are reviewed with each class to insure that students are well informed as to what is expected of them. Throughout the year, positive conduct is reinforced individually and collectively through class meetings/discussions, assemblies, Star Code centered events, and opportunities for social education as individual situations arise.

The GBRSS Bullying Intervention Policy appears in our Employee Handbook, in the Parent Handbook, on our school website and is distributed to families upon admission to the school. Before school begins each year, attention is drawn to the policy in the summer letter to parents and the policy is reviewed at opening faculty meetings. The Star Code is posted in every elementary classroom and throughout the elementary school. In Early Childhood, appropriate behavior is consistently expected and corrected on an individual basis when infractions occur. In addition to supporting positive conduct toward others, the school strives to empower students to take action if they feel targeted or if they witness other students engaging in bullying or other unacceptable behavior.

The administration and faculty recognize that it is essential that expectation for student conduct extend to corridors, bathrooms, lunch, recess, buses and the like. The School strives to ensure that ample adult supervision is provided on school premises and on school-provided transportation throughout the school day, as well as at school-sponsored events.

V. Bullying Intervention Plan

Reporting
Any student who is the target of bullying or cyber-bullying or has witnessed an incident of bullying or cyber-bullying or otherwise has relevant information about bullying or cyber-bullying prohibited by this policy is strongly encouraged to promptly report the matter orally or in writing to any faculty or staff member with whom the student is comfortable speaking. Also, any student who is subject to retaliation in violation of this policy or who knows of another student who has been subject to retaliation is urged to report it as soon as possible.

A parent of a student who is the target of bullying or cyber-bullying or of a student who has witnessed or otherwise has relevant information about bullying or cyber-bullying is strongly urged to promptly notify the Faculty Administrator or a faculty member at the School. Furthermore, any parent who has him or herself witnessed bullying or cyber-bullying or has relevant information concerning such an incident is strongly urged to report such to the Faculty Administrator or a faculty member. A parent should also report any incident of retaliation in violation of this policy to the School.

Any member of the faculty or staff of the School, including but not limited to athletic coaches, advisors to extra curricular activities, teachers hired to teach a particular block, or substitute teachers, who witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying or cyber-bullying in violation of this policy or who becomes aware of retaliation against a student who reported information concerning a violation of this policy is required to report it immediately to the Faculty Administrator. There are to be no exceptions. A member of the faculty or staff may not make promises of confidentiality to a student or parent who informs him/her of an allegation of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation. Faculty and staff may not make reports under this policy anonymously.

The School also urges students and their parents not to make reports anonymously. 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. Students and parents are encouraged to bear in mind that the School takes its policy against retaliation seriously. Also, while the School cannot promise strict confidentiality, as information must be shared in order to conduct an effective investigation, the School releases information concerning complaints of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation only on a legitimate need-to-know basis.

The Faculty Administrator, or his/her designee in charge of receiving complaints, is to keep the following, accurate documentation of all complaints received.
a. the name of the complainant;
b. the status of the complainant (i.e. student, staff, third party);
c. the name of the alleged bully;
d. the date the complaint was received;
e. how the complaint was received (i.e., written, oral);
f. the nature of the complaint (i.e. facts of the complaint); and
g. the names of witnesses.

Reports of bullying are best if given in writing, although this is not a requirement. No disciplinary action shall be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

Investigation
1. The Faculty Administrator must inform the Chair of the Council of Teachers and the Chair of the Board of Trustees. The Faculty Administrator or an appropriate designee should conduct an investigation within 24 to 48 hours of the complaint, if possible.
2. The Faculty Administrator, Council Chair and Board Chair will decide if and when the full Council and Board need to be informed. Right to privacy and confidentiality must be respected.
3. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee will ask all appropriate questions of the complainant in order to get the full story.
a. who, what, when, where, how;
b. is there any physical evidence (documents, texts, voicemail);
c. effect of bullying – what will restore the complainant’s sense of safety; and
d. assess the complainant’s need for protection and, if needed, determine what form the protection should take.
4. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee shall notify the parents or guardians of the alleged bully and the victim.
5. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee will caution all witnesses and the alleged bully that retaliation is also a violation of school policy.
6. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee will interview the alleged bully and fairly warn him/her that the conduct will, if appropriate, be reported to local law enforcement.
7. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee will interview witnesses.

8. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee will establish the following:
a. if the alleged bullying occurred;
b. when the alleged bullying occurred;
c. how frequently the alleged bullying occurred;
d. specific facts about the type and severity of the alleged bullying;
e. if the bullying has affected the complainant;
f. what action will restore the complainant’s sense of safety;
g. if the complainant is in need of protection and if so what type;
h. what professional services are appropriate to recommend or require;
i. if notification to local law enforcement is required.

Decision
1. Based upon a thorough investigation, the Faculty Administrator and Council Chair shall make a decision that is appropriate for all parties concerning whether bullying occurred and, if so, the appropriate response from the School. This will include decisions regarding informing the Council and Board, discipline of the perpetrator, appropriate educational and counseling remedies, and protection of the complainant.
2. Depending on the circumstances of the case, if it is determined that bullying has occurred the Faculty Administrator and Council Chair, in collaboration with the Council of Teachers, may discipline the offending party by ordering:
a. counseling;
b. stay away order;
c. an educational component;
d. a verbal warning;
e. a written warning;
f. suspension;
g. expulsion, or;
h. any other remedy deemed appropriate by the above mentioned parties.

3. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee shall notify local law enforcement if he/she believes that criminal charges may be pursued against the alleged perpetrator.

4. Any discipline should be viewed in the light of balancing accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.

5. If the incident involves students from more than one school, the school first informed of the bullying or retaliation shall, consistent with state and federal law, promptly notify the appropriate administrator of the other school or schools. If an incident of bullying or retaliation occurs on school grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21, the school shall inform local law enforcement when appropriate and consistent with this policy.

6. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee will confer with the complainant and his/her parents to explain the action being taken including what if any actions are being taken to create a sense of safety for the complainant, and implementation of any protection plans and to make counseling referrals if appropriate.
7. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee shall confer with the alleged perpetrator and his/her parents. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee shall explain the discipline if any, make any counseling referral, explain plans for creating a sense of safety for the complainant, explain any protection plans and reiterate any retaliation by alleged perpetrator or family/friends may subject the offender to further discipline up to and including expulsion.
8. The Faculty Administrator or his/her designee should follow-up on this decision in order to ensure that his/her recommendation has been put into effect.

VI. Educational and Professional Development Components

1. This bullying prevention plan shall be reviewed and updated biennially. There shall be notice of the plan updates to each family of a student attending the School.
2. Parents and guardians shall be informed about the bullying intervention policy of the School, specifically:
a. how parents and guardians are expected to reinforce the policy at home and support the School and School plan;
b. dynamics of bullying; and,
c. online safety and cyber-bullying.
3. The School shall provide to students and parents or guardians, in age-appropriate terms, annual written notice of the student related sections of the plan.
4. The School shall provide annual written notice of the plan to all faculty and staff.
5. All faculty and staff shall be informed of the policy, including their respective duties, and the policy shall be included in the School’s employee handbook.
6. The Plan shall be posted on the School’s website.
7. The Faculty Administrator and Council Chair shall be responsible for the implementation and oversight of the plan.

VII. Conclusion

This Plan is intended to
(1) prevent bullying and cyber-bullying among our students,
(2) encourage students and their parents to have confidence in the School’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) implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when they are found to be warranted.