Nantucket Lighthouse School Bullying Prevention Plan

NANTUCKET LIGHTHOUSE SCHOOL
BULLYING PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION PLAN
August 2014

Nantucket Lighthouse School (the “School” or “NLS”) is committed to fostering a school community and educational environment that encourages kindness, responsibility, tolerance, and empathy. This goal is defined in the School’s founding Mission and Philosophy. The overriding rule throughout the School is the Golden Rule, “treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Bullying, cyber-bullying, unlawful discrimination, and harassment and any other verbal, physical or emotional misconduct that disrupts the learning environment or makes it unsafe are unacceptable.

The School recognizes that certain students may be more vulnerable to become targets of bullying, harassment, or teasing based on actual or perceived characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.

This Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (the “Plan”) is consistent with broader protections at the School against discrimination, harassment, bullying, and retaliation that appear in our Employee Manual and our Parent Handbook.

It is important that this Plan be well understood by all members of the School 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.

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

The School will not tolerate any form of bullying or cyber-bullying, nor will it 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.  Bullying and cyber-bullying are also prohibited at School bus stops, on school buses and other vehicles owned, leased, or used by the School, on property immediately adjacent to School grounds, and through use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased, or used by the School.

Bullying and cyber-bullying are also prohibited at a location, activity, function, or program that is not School‐related and 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 a targeted student, if it infringes on the rights of a targeted student at School, or if it materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the School.

This policy applies to all of our students and faculty/staff; it also may apply if one of our current students is subjected to bullying by a former student who comes on school grounds or who engages in cyber-bullying against one of our current students.

In order to ensure clarity in this document, definitions for key terms are provided below.  The definitions are drawn from the Massachusetts law against bullying.

Aggressor:  A student or faculty/staff member who engages in bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation towards another person.

Bullying:  Bullying is defined as the use by one or more students or members of the faculty/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 himself or herself or of damage to his or her property;
• creates a hostile environment at the School for the target;
• infringes on the rights of the target at the School; or
• materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the School.

Cyber-bullying:  Cyber-bullying is bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, including, but 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 also includes: (a) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person, and (b) 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.  Cyber-bullying also includes 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 included in the definition of bullying.

Hostile Environment:  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 or a faculty/staff member’s work experience at the School.

Retaliation:  Retaliation is any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment directed against a student or faculty/staff member 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.

Faculty/Staff:  Faculty/staff members include, but are not limited to, educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, support staff, and paraprofessionals.

Target:  Any student, or a member of the faculty/staff, against whom bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.

The School’s Expectations and Legal Definitions:  It is important to bear in mind that higher standards of behavior may apply under the School’s policies as the School aims to prevent inappropriate verbal or physical conduct before it becomes bullying as defined under the law.  For example, although the law defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, 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.

III. Prevention
The members of the NLS community are expected to interact with each other in an honest and respectful manner. We consider the social component of the Lighthouse curriculum to be as important to an individual’s education as the academic subjects we teach. Through the social curriculum, students encounter daily lessons in effective and respectful communication, problem solving strategies, and conflict resolution skills. Adults in the community are expected to teach these lessons through example and modeling.
All community members, students, staff members, and parents share responsibility for contributing to the creation of a safe, comfortable and caring school community free from harassment and bullying. Parents, students and faculty/staff members are notified regarding this policy as printed in our annual parent information packets, in staff handbooks, and in introductory All School student meetings.

To help to ensure student safety, faculty/staff members and adults who will be working with NLS students submit to CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information), SORI (Sex Offender Registry Board) checks and national finger-print based checks.  Students periodically participate in personal safety and bullying awareness programs conducted by Nantucket’s Safe Place.

Parents are encouraged to discuss safety issues and strategies with students at home. Students will be provided with age-appropriate information on the recognition and prevention of harassment, intimidation or bullying, and their rights and responsibilities under this Plan. Parents will be provided with copies of this Plan and appropriate materials on the recognition and prevention of harassment, intimidation and bullying. The School will periodically review this Plan, incorporating constructive feedback from the NLS community.

The School also conducts an annual training for faculty/staff (and more often, as deemed necessary by the Head of School), which includes: (a) developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying incidents; (b) developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents; (c) information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among a perpetrator, victim and witnesses to the bullying; (d) research findings on bullying, including information about students who have been shown to be particularly at risk for bullying in the school environment; (e) information on the incidence and nature of cyber-bullying; and (f) internet safety issues as they relate to cyber-bullying.

IV. Reports of Bullying, Cyber-bullying and Retaliation

The School needs to know whenever a member of the community has been made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable by word or action. The School has an open reporting system where any concerned person may report an incident of bullying or cyber bullying, as described in more detail below.

Students.  Any student who is the target of bullying or cyber-bullying, has witnessed an incident of bullying or cyber-bullying, or otherwise has relevant information about bullying or cyber-bullying or related conduct prohibited by this policy is strongly encouraged to promptly report the matter orally or in writing to the Head of School or any other faculty member or member of the Schools’ administration with whom the student is comfortable speaking.  Oral reports made to a member of the faculty/staff will generally be memorialized in writing.  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.  Furthermore, a student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation may be subject to disciplinary action.

Families.  A parent/guardian 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 notify promptly the Head of School or the Classroom Teacher.  Any parent/guardian who has witnessed bullying or cyber-bullying or has relevant information concerning such misconduct is urged to come forward to the Head of School or the Classroom Teacher.  A parent/guardian should also report any incident of retaliation in violation of this policy to the Head of School or the Classroom Teacher.

Faculty/Staff.  Any faculty/staff member who witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying or cyber-bullying in violation of this policy, or any retaliation against a student in violation of this policy, is required to report it immediately to the Head of School or Classroom Teacher.  There are to be no exceptions.  Any faculty/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.  Promises of confidentiality should not be made.

If a member of the faculty/staff witnesses an act of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation in progress, the faculty/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.  Faculty/staff members may not make reports under this policy anonymously.  The School also urges students and their parents/guardians not to make reports anonymously, but anonymous reports by parents/guardians or students of either bullying or retaliation are permitted.  Although there are circumstances in which an anonymous report can sometimes be better than none at all, it is more difficult to determine the facts of what occurred if complaints are made anonymously, and no disciplinary action will be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.  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 and investigations of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation only on a legitimate need-to-know basis.

V. Responding to a Report of Bullying, Cyber-bullying, or Retaliation

The Head of School will respond to the reporting party within 24 hours.  Insofar as is legally allowed by State law, confidentiality will be maintained with respect to the parties involved in the report, however the party reporting the incident will be notified that it has been investigated and results will be shared as appropriate.

A. Preliminary Considerations:  When a complaint of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation is brought to the attention of the Head of School or Classroom Teacher a preliminary assessment is made as to whether any immediate steps need to be taken to protect the wellbeing of students and to prevent disruption of the learning environment.  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.

The School is committed to protecting the physical and emotional wellbeing of all of its students and faculty/staff and will take appropriate measures to do so.  Thus, the School will be sensitive to the needs of both the alleged targets as well as the alleged aggressors.  Responses to promote safety may include, but not be limited to, creating a personal safety plan, pre-determining seating arrangements for the target and/or the aggressor in the classroom, at lunch, or on the bus; identifying a faculty/staff member who will act as a “safe person” for the target; and altering the aggressor’s schedule and/or access to the target.  The School will take additional steps to promote safety during the course of and after the investigation, as may be appropriate, including implementing protocols for protecting individuals who report or witness bullying, or who are interviewed regarding bullying.

At any point after receiving a report of bullying, cyber-bulling, and/or retaliation, the Head of School or Classroom Teacher may notify the local law enforcement in the event that the Head of School or Classroom Teacher 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 Head of School may notify the appropriate administrator of the other school so that both may take appropriate action.

B. Obligation to Notify Parents.  The School will generally 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 after a complaint has been made.

C. Investigation.  Once a complaint has been brought to the attention of the Head of School or Classroom Teacher the Head of School will usually conduct an investigation.  That investigation may include, but will not necessarily be limited to, interviews with the person who made the complaint, with the student and faculty/staff member who was the target of the alleged bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation, with the person or persons against whom the complaint was made, and with any students, faculty, staff or other persons who witnessed or who may otherwise have relevant information about the alleged incident.

Depending on the circumstances, the Head of School (or his/her designee) may choose to consult with other teachers, a local Psychologist or any other person whom the investigator deems to have knowledge about, or circumstances surrounding, the complaint.

D. Resolution, Notification, and Follow-up.  Following interviews and any other investigation the School has deemed appropriate, the Head of School 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 and/or the Classroom Teacher will determine what disciplinary action and/or other remedial action is appropriate and how it will be implemented.

The goal of an investigation and any disciplinary or other remedial process that is initiated following that investigation is to correct the situation to the extent it is reasonably possible to do so.  In addition, the School will take use of all available means to avert a repetition of the incident and to prevent the student or students or faculty/staff targeted and any others who participated in the investigation from being subjected to retaliation.

In appropriate circumstances, such as when a crime may have been committed or a child may have been subjected to abuse or neglect of the type that is reportable under M.G.L. c. 119, § 51A, law enforcement or another appropriate government agency may be notified.

Upon completion of the investigation, the Head of School or whomever else conducted the investigation will meet individually with: (1) the targets of the alleged incident, (2) the alleged aggressors against whom the complaint was made, and (3) the parents of any students involved.  The Head of School or Classroom Teacher to be appropriate, will inform the parties of the steps that will be taken to correct the situation.  The amount of information provided in these meetings may be limited by confidentiality laws protecting student and employee records.

Follow-up contacts will be made with any student or other person found to have been targeted in violation of this policy and his/her parents (as applicable) to inquire as to whether there have been any further incidents or retaliation against the student or faculty/staff member.

NLS administrators will provide those involved in bullying incidents (targets and aggressors) with information regarding available support and counseling services including A Safe Place of Nantucket and certified counselors. When appropriate, NLS administrators will recommend that parents confer with the student’s pediatrician for further references and information.

E. Disciplinary Action.  The Head of School will determine any appropriate disciplinary action for a student who is found to have committed an incident of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation.  The range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against an aggressor for bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior, and may include:

• Counseling;
• Detention;
• Suspension from the School; and
• Dismissal from the School.

Any student found to have made a false allegation of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation may also be subject to disciplinary action.  If, as the result of an investigation, the Head of School determines that faculty/staff should also be subject to disciplinary action, such disciplinary action will be handled in accordance with the policies set forth in the Employee Manual.

VI. Conclusion

This Plan, which is consistent with the School’s Mission and Philosophy, outlines the School’s bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation policy and is consistent with the School’s on-going commitment to fostering a safe, supportive, and respectful learning environment for all members of the Nantucket Lighthouse School community.  This Plan and the policies incorporated into it are intended to: (a) prevent bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation at the School and in the School community; (b) encourage students, their parents/guardians and faculty/staff to have confidence in the School’s policies and procedures and to come forward promptly if a student or other member of the School community is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this Plan or any other of the School’s policies; and (c) implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when they are found to be warranted.