Bullying Prevention and Intervention

Melrose Public Schools recognizes the importance of providing a safe and supportive environment for all students and  will not tolerate any form of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation, in our schools, on our school grounds, or during our school-related activities. We will promptly investigate all reports and complaints of bullying, cyberbullying, and/or retaliation to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment. We invite members of our learning community and citizens of Melrose to partner with us to create a school culture of safety, respect, and sense of belonging for all.

PROHIBITION AGAINST BULLYING AND RETALIATION

Acts of bullying, which include cyberbullying, are prohibited:

  • on school grounds and 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 a school district or school; or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased, or used by a school district or school, and
  • at a location, activity, function, or program that is not school-­related through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased, or used by a school district or school, if the acts create a hostile environment at school for the target or witnesses, infringe on their rights at school, or materially and substantially disrupt the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

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

DEFINITIONS

 Aggressor is a student who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.

Bullying, as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, 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 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 school for the target
  • Infringes on the rights of the target at school
  • Materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

Cyber­bullying is bullying through the use of technology or electronic devices such as telephones, cell phones, computers, and the Internet.  It includes, but is not limited to, email, instant messages, text messages, and Internet postings.  See M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O for the legal definition of cyberbullying.

 Hostile environment, as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, 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 a studentho reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.

 Staff includes, but is not limited to, educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, support staff, or paraprofessionals.

Target is a student against whom bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.

REPORTING AND RESPONDING TO BULLYING AND RETALIATION

 Reporting bullying or retaliation.  Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made by staff, students, parents or guardians, or others, and may be oral or written.  Oral reports made by or to a staff member shall be recorded in writing.  A school or district staff member is required to report immediately to the principal or designee any instance of bullying or retaliation the staff member becomes aware of or witnesses.  Reports made by students, parents or guardians, or other individuals who are not school or district staff members, may be made anonymously.  The district has made a variety of reporting resources available to the school community including, but not limited to, a Harassment Incident Report Form,[1] a voicemail box at each school, a district dedicated mailing address, and an email address at each school. Contact information for each school is as follows:

The District mailing address is as follows:

  • Melrose Public Schools –c/o Cyndy S. Taymore, 360 Lynn Fells Pkwy, Melrose, MA 02176

Use of the Harassment Incident Report Form is not required as a condition of making a report.  The school or district will: 1) include a copy of the Harassment Incident Report Form in the beginning of the year packets for students and parents or guardians; 2) make it available in the school’s main office, the counseling office, the school nurse’s office, and other locations determined by the principal or designee; and 3) post it on the school’s website.  The Harassment Incident Report Form will be made available in the most prevalent language(s) of origin of students and parents or guardians.

At the beginning of each school year, the school or district will provide the school community, including administrators, staff, students, and parents or guardians, with written notice of its policies for reporting acts of bullying and retaliation.  A description of the  reporting procedures and resources, including the name and contact information of the principal or designee, will be incorporated in student and staff handbooks, on the school or district website, and in information about the Plan that is made available to parents or guardians.

Reporting by Staff.  A staff member will report immediately to the principal or designee when he/she witnesses or becomes aware of conduct that may be bullying or retaliation.  The requirement to report to the principal or designee does not limit the authority of the staff member to respond to behavioral or disciplinary incidents consistent with school or district policies and procedures for behavior management and discipline.

Reporting by Students, Parents or Guardians, and Others.  The school or district expects students, parents or guardians, and others who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying or retaliation involving a student to report it to the principal or designee.  Reports may be made anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report.  Students, parents or guardians, and others may request assistance from a staff member to complete a written report.  Students will be provided practical, safe, private and age-appropriate ways to report and discuss an incident of bullying with a staff member, or with the principal or designee.

Responding to a report of bullying or retaliation. 

Safety:  Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying or retaliation, the principal or designee will take steps to assess the need to restore a sense of safety to the alleged target and/or to protect the alleged target from possible further incidents.  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 a transportation vehicle; identifying a staff member who will act as a “safe person” for the target; and altering the aggressor’s schedule and access to the target.  The principal or designee will take additional steps to promote safety during the course of and after the investigation, as necessary.

The principal or designee will implement appropriate strategies for protecting from bullying or retaliation of a student who: has reported bullying or retaliation; has witnessed bullying or retaliation; provides information during an investigation; or has reliable information about a reported act of bullying or retaliation.

Obligations to Notify Others:

Notice to parents or guardians.  Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the aggressor of this, and of the procedures for responding to it.  There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.

Notice to another School or District.  If the reported incident involves students from more than one school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private special education day or residential school, or collaborative school, the principal or designee first informed of the incident will promptly notify by telephone the principal or designee of the other school(s) of the incident so that each school may take appropriate action.  All communications will be in accordance with state and federal privacy laws and regulations, and 603 CMR 49.00.

Notice to Law Enforcement.  At any point after receiving a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, if the principal or designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the principal will notify the Melrose Police Department.  Notice will be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and locally established agreements with the Melrose Police Department.  Also, if an incident occurs on school grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled in school, the principal or designee shall contact the Melrose Police Department if he or she has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.

In making this determination, the principal will, consistent with the Plan and with applicable school or district policies and procedures, consult with the district’s School Resource Officer (SRO), if any, and other individuals the principal or designee deems appropriate.

Investigation.  The principal or designee will investigate promptly all reports of bullying or retaliation and, in doing so, will consider all available information known, including the nature of the allegation(s) and the ages of the students involved.  Specifically, the Principal or designee shall complete the investigation within a reasonable amount of time, not to exceed 15 school days following the date of the report.

During the investigation the principal or designee will, among other things, interview students, staff, witnesses, parents or guardians, and others as necessary. The principal or designee (or whoever is conducting the investigation) will remind the alleged aggressor, target, and witnesses that retaliation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.

Interviews may be conducted by the principal or designee, other staff members as determined by the principal or designee, and in consultation with the school counselor, as appropriate.  To the extent practicable, and given his/her obligation to investigate and address the matter, the principal or designee will maintain confidentiality during the investigative process. The principal or designee will maintain a written record of the investigation.

Procedures for investigating reports of bullying and retaliation will be consistent with school or district policies and procedures for investigations.  If necessary, the principal or designee will consult with legal counsel about the investigation.

Determinations.  The principal or designee will make a determination based upon all of the facts and circumstances.  If, after investigation, bullying or retaliation is substantiated, the principal or designee will take steps reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and to ensure that the target is not restricted in participating in school or in benefiting from school activities.  The principal or designee will: 1) determine what remedial action is required, if any, and 2) determine what responsive actions and/or disciplinary action is necessary.

Depending upon the circumstances, the principal or designee may choose to consult with the students’ teacher(s) and/or school counselor, and the target’s or aggressor’s parents or guardians, to identify any underlying social or emotional issue(s) that may have contributed to the bullying behavior and to assess the level of need for additional social skills development.

The principal or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the aggressor about the results of the investigation and, if bullying or retaliation is found, what action is being taken to prevent further acts of bullying or retaliation.  All notice to parents must comply with applicable state and federal privacy laws and regulations.  Because of the legal requirements regarding the confidentiality of student records, the principal or designee cannot report specific information to the target’s parent or guardian about the disciplinary action taken unless it involves a “stay away” order or other directive that the target must be aware of in order to report violations.

Responses to Bullying:

Teaching Appropriate Behavior through Skills-building.  Upon the principal or designee determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the law requires that the school or district use a range of responses that balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.  M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O(d)(v).  Skill-building approaches that the principal or designee may consider include:

▪     Providing relevant educational activities for individual students or groups of students, in consultation with guidance counselors and other appropriate school personnel.

▪     Implementing a range of academic and nonacademic positive behavioral supports to help students understand pro-social ways to achieve their goals.

▪     Meeting with parents and guardians to engage parental support and to reinforce the anti-bullying curricula and social skills building activities at home.

▪     Adopting behavioral plans to include a focus on developing specific social skills.

▪     Making a referral for any further evaluation as appropriate.

Taking Disciplinary Action.  If the principal or designee decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the principal or designee, including the nature of the conduct, the age of the student(s) involved, and the need to balance accountability with the teaching of appropriate behavior.  Discipline will be consistent with the Plan and with the school’s or district’s code of conduct.

Discipline procedures for students with disabilities are governed by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), which should be read in cooperation with state laws regarding student discipline.

If the principal or designee determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.

Promoting Safety for the Target and Others.  The principal or designee will consider what adjustments, if any, are needed in the school environment to enhance the target’s sense of safety and that of others as well.  One strategy that the principal or designee may use is to increase adult supervision at transition times and in locations where bullying is known to have occurred or is likely to occur.

Within a reasonable period of time following the determination and the ordering of remedial and/or disciplinary action, the principal or designee will contact the target to determine whether there has been a recurrence of the prohibited conduct and whether additional supportive measures are needed.  If so, the principal or designee will work with appropriate school staff to implement them immediately.

TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 Annual staff training on the Plan.  Annual training for all school staff on the Plan will include staff duties under the Plan, an overview of the steps that the principal or designee will follow upon receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation, and an overview of the bullying prevention curricula to be offered at all grades throughout the school or district.  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.

Ongoing professional development.  The goal of professional development is to establish a common understanding of tools necessary for staff 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.  As required by M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, the content of schoolwide and districtwide professional development will be informed by research and will include information on:

  • Developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying
  • Developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents
  • Information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among an aggressor, target, and witnesses to the bullying
  • 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
  • Information on the incidence and nature of cyberbullying
  • Internet safety issues as they relate to cyberbullying

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 the school or district for professional development includes:

  • Promoting and modeling the use of respectful language
  • Fostering an understanding of and respect for diversity and difference
  • Building relationships and communicating with families
  • Managing classroom behaviors constructively
  • Using positive behavioral intervention strategies
  • Applying constructive disciplinary practices
  • Teaching students skills including positive communication, anger management, and empathy for other
  • Engaging students in school or classroom planning and decision-making
  • Maintaining a safe and caring classroom for all students

Written notice to staff.  The school or district will provide all staff with an annual written notice of the Plan by publishing information about it, including sections related to staff duties.

ACADEMIC AND NON-ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES

Specific bullying prevention approaches.  Bullying prevention curricula will be informed by current research which, among other things, emphasizes the following approaches:

  • Using scripts and role plays to develop skills
  • Empowering students to take action by knowing what to do when they witness other students engaged in acts of bullying or retaliation, including seeking adult assistance
  • Helping students understand the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying, including the underlying power imbalance
  • Emphasizing cybersafety, including safe and appropriate use of electronic communication technologies
  • Enhancing students’ skills for engaging in healthy relationships and respectful communications
  • Engaging students in a safe, supportive school environment that is respectful of diversity and difference

Initiatives will also teach students about the student-related sections of the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan.  Beginning with the 2011-2012 school term, the Melrose Public School staff will review developmentally appropriate versions of the definitions, reporting and responding sections of this Plan with students by October 1st of each year.

General teaching approaches that support bullying prevention efforts.

The following approaches are integral to establishing a safe and supportive school environment.  These underscore the importance of our bullying intervention and prevention initiatives:

  • Setting clear expectations for students and establishing school and classroom routines
  • Creating safe school and classroom environments for all students, including for students with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students, and homeless students
  • Using appropriate and positive responses and reinforcement, even when students require discipline
  • Using positive behavioral supports
  • Encouraging adults to develop positive relationships with students
  • Modeling, teaching, and rewarding pro-social, healthy, and respectful behaviors
  • Using positive approaches to behavioral health, including collaborative problem-solving, conflict resolution training, teamwork, and positive behavioral supports that aid in social and emotional development
  • Using the Internet safely
  • Supporting students’ interest and participation in non-academic and extracurricular activities, particularly in their areas of strength

As stated in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, nothing in this Plan requires the district or school to staff any non-school related activities, functions, or programs.

COLLABORATION WITH FAMILIES

Parent education and resources.  The Melrose Public School district will offer education programs for parents and guardians that are focused on the parental components of the anti-bullying curricula and any social competency curricula used by the district or school. The programs will be offered in collaboration with the PTO, School Site Councils, Special Education Parent Advisory Council or similar organizations.

Notification requirements.  Each year the school or district will inform parents or guardians of enrolled students about the anti-bullying curricula that are being used. This notice will include information about the dynamics of bullying, including cyberbullying and online safety.  The school or district will send parents written notice each year about the student-related sections of the Plan and the school’s or district’s Internet safety policy.  All notices and information made available to parents or guardians will be in hard copy and electronic formats, and will be available in the language(s) most prevalent among parents or guardians.  The school or district will post the Plan and related information on its website.

 RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER LAWS

Consistent with state and federal laws, and the policies of the Melrose Public Schools, no person shall be discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town or in obtaining the advantages, privilege and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.  Nothing in the Plan prevents the school or district from taking action to remediate discrimination or harassment based on a person’s membership in a legally protected category under local, state, or federal law, or school or district policies.

In addition, nothing in the Plan is designed or intended to limit the authority of the school or district to take disciplinary action or other action under M.G.L. c. 71, §§ 37H or 37H½, other applicable laws, or local school or district policies in response to violent, harmful, or disruptive behavior, regardless of whether the Plan covers the behavior.

ACCESS TO RESOURCES AND SERVICES

A key aspect of promoting positive school climates is ensuring that the underlying emotional needs of targets, aggressors, families, and others are addressed and that supports and services necessary to meet their needs are made available.  In order to enhance the school’s or district’s capacity to prevent, intervene early, and respond effectively to bullying, these services should reflect an understanding of the dynamics of bullying and provide approaches to address the needs of targets and aggressors and.  include a strategy for providing counseling or referral to appropriate services for aggressors, targets, and family members of those students.

Identifying Resources.

The Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services oversees the collection and consolidation of building level information regarding the capacity of each school to provide counseling and other services for targets, aggressors and their families. This includes staffing, financial, and curricula supports. This information is compiled by individual school principals and provided to the Assistant Superintendent annually. Regularly scheduled leadership meetings (comprised of principals and district level administrators) provide opportunities for this information to be updated.

Next Steps:

  • Assess the effectiveness of current resources at each school.
  • Determine professional development needs of staff. This will be completed primarily by the Director of Curriculum in coordination with building principals.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of current programs (i.e. Second Step & Responsive classroom) at elementary level, Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders from the Teenage Health Teaching Module (THTM), Acts of Kindness Week and the Acts of Kindness club at the middle school level and Peer Mediation at the high school level.
  • Explore published curricula and/or develop new curricula for use across the district.
  • Once identified, any new curricula will be reviewed and evaluated by the building principals, central administrators, and School Health Advisory Committee.
  • Compile information regarding community agencies and service providers that offer counseling and/or social skills development support.

Counseling and other Services

English as Second language:

English is the primary language of the students attending Melrose Public schools. For students for whom English is a second language, the district utilizes a contracted translation service, and additional agencies offering counseling services will be identified.

Counseling:

At the building level, administrators, counselors and staff possess knowledge and experience in preventing and responding to bullying behaviors. In addition, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and social workers within the district will compile and maintain a comprehensive list of community based agencies, counseling, and social skills development programs available.

When the student’s needs exceed the counseling support appropriate to a school setting, and/or when the parent requests information to support their child at home a referral to outside services may be appropriate. As with all referrals, it will be communicated that this is a parent choice and not a requirement of the school system.

Students with disabilities.

As required by M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3, as amended by Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010, when the IEP Team determines the student has a disability that affects social skills development or the student may participate in or is vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing because of his/her disability, the Team will consider what should be included in the IEP to develop the student’s skills and proficiencies to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing.

Other Service Providers and Resources:

Melrose Alliance Against Violence (MAAV) provides professional development training for staff and informational presentations for parents and students.  Additionally, MAAV provides information about bullying on their web site (http://www.maav.org); pamphlets and handouts; a resource library of books, curricula and DVD’s on bullying for parents, students and staff.

Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) provides professional development trainings, and information on their web site, in support of staff, parent, and students. www.bridgew.edu/marc

The Middlesex Partnership for Youth and Project Alliance, in coordination with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, provide ongoing support by presenting information on school safety and anti-bullying to staff and parents. www.middlesexpartnershipsforyouth.com