Bullying Prevention and Intervention

Berkshire District Attorney’s Office Bullying Prevention Initiative

BHRSD Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy

Muddy Brook Elementary Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan

Bullying, Cyber-bullying, and Retaliation Are Prohibited

Muddy Brook considers positive reinforcement and teachable moments to be the primary focus in creating a positive school climate and culture. Below are general guidelines for documenting bullying behaviors. This Muddy Brook prevention and intervention plan was approved by the state of  Massachusetts in 2012.

Priority Statement
Muddy Brook Elementary is committed to providing all students with a safe learning environment that is free from bullying. It is our expectation that our staff, students, and community work together to create a positive climate that emphasizes kindness, responsibility, and hard work.

Aggressor is a student or group of students who engage in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.

Target is a student against whom bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated. Bullying is conduct that is repeated, by one or more students, and targets another student causing one or more of the following:
a. physical or emotional harm to the targeted student or damage to his/her property
b. placement of the targeted student in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself or of damage to his/her property
c. a hostile environment at school for the targeted student
d. infringement on the rights of the targeted student at school
e. material and substantial disruption to the educational process or the orderly operation of the school

Bullying generally involves “picking on” a student over time and may include:
a. hitting and shoving
b. pressuring a student into taking an action he/she does not wish to take
c. threats, teasing, name-calling, or putdowns
d. threatening looks, gestures, or actions
e. cruel rumors
f. false accusations
g. social isolation

Cyber-bullying is bullying through use of cell phones, computers, or other technology. This may include but is not limited to:
a. sending derogatory, harassing, or threatening email messages, social-networking messages or posts, instant messages, or blogs
b. creating websites, social-networking groups or pages, or blogs that make fun of, humiliate, or intimidate others
c. posting or sending embarrassing or inappropriate pictures or images of others
d. creating a website, social-networking profile or blog or posting by which the author/creator impersonates another person.

Hostile Environment is a circumstance 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. The targeted student becomes so concerned about bullying that he/she is unable to participate in, and concentrate on, academics and other school activities.

Retaliation is any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment directed against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about an incident. It involves a student “getting back at” another student because of a belief that the student reported bullying or provided information about it to an adult or others who may help the targeted student.

Acts of Bullying (Including Cyber-bullying) and Retaliation Are Prohibited

Muddy Brook Elementary School prohibits bullying (including cyber-bullying) and retaliation as defined above both at school and under the following circumstances:
a. on school grounds or any property next to school grounds
b. at the bus stop or on school buses or any other school vehicle
c. at any school-sponsored, or school-related activities, functions or programs
d. through use of any school computers, internet connection or other school based technology
e. at a location or during activities that are not school related, or by using private
computer or cell phone, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the
targeted student, infringes on the rights of the targeted student at school, or otherwise
disrupts the orderly operation of the school

How to Report Bullying:
Students who believe they are targets of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation, or who know about bullying or cyber-bullying conduct should report conduct to their grade level, classroom teacher, principal, or assistant principal. Students may also report the conduct to the school adjustment guidance counselor, building specialist teachers, or other school staff members, who will in turn report the incident, in writing, to the principal or designee.

Complaint Notification:
A. Anonymous complaints:
Should anonymity be requested, the principal or his designee shall meet with the student to review the request for anonymity and the impact of the anonymity on the complaint.  Anonymous complaints shall be reviewed and reasonable action will be taken to address the situation.
B. Informal/Verbal complaints by students:
Students may make informal/verbal complaints of conduct that they consider to be bullying to a teacher, administrator or staff personnel. Such informal/verbal complaints shall be reasonably specific as to the actions giving rise to the suspicion of bullying, including time, place, the number of occurrences, target of the alleged act and potential witnesses. All personnel who receive the informal/verbal complaint shall promptly reduce the complaint to writing. This written report shall then be forwarded to the principal, assistant principal, or the school adjustment counselor.
C. Formal/written complaints:
Students and/or their parents or guardians may file written reports of conduct that they consider to be bullying. These written reports shall be specific as to the action giving rise to the suspicion of bullying, including time, place the number of occurrences, target of the alleged act and potential witnesses. Such reports must be filed with the principal or her designee.

Addressing Concerns Regarding Bullying:
A. Safety
Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying and/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. There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee, at their discretion and in accordance with applicable law, contacts parents or guardians prior to the investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.  Responses to promote safety may include, but shall not be limited to, creating a personal safety plan; determining new seating arrangements for the target and/or the aggressor in the classroom, at lunch, or on the bus; 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 a student from bullying or retaliation, protecting a student who has reported bullying or retaliation, protecting a student who has witnessed bullying or retaliation, protecting a student who provides information during an investigation, and protecting a student who has reliable information about a reported act of bullying or retaliation. The confidentiality of students and witnesses reporting alleged acts of bullying, and/or retaliation will be maintained to the extent possible given the school’s obligation to investigate the matter.

The principal or designee will be responsible for taking steps to investigate and otherwise address reports of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation. Students who engage in bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation will be subject to discipline by the principal, subject to any procedural requirements. In making disciplinary decisions, the principal will consider both the need for accountability and the importance of utilizing positive behavior reinforcement. The range of consequences that may be implemented includes but is not limited to:

● verbal warning
● written warning
● positive behavior/restorative justice reinforcement
● parent conference
● behavior management plan
● internal or external suspension
● expulsion from school

In addition to any consequences, the principal or designee will report conduct relating to bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation to local law enforcement if it’s believed that criminal charges may be pursued.

I. Staff responsibilities and intervention strategies:
A. Staff who witness acts that may be bullying, as defined above, shall promptly file with the principal or designee a written incident report of the events witnessed. If a staff member is told by a student of a particular event that staff member is obligated to file a written report to the principal or designee.
B. In addition to addressing both informal and formal complaints, staff members are encouraged to address the issue of bullying in other interactions with students. Staff will create opportunities to educate students about bullying behavior through classroom meetings, counseling, and reinforcement of positive universal behavior expectations. All staff members should intervene whenever they observe conduct that has the purpose or effect of ridiculing, humiliating or intimidating another individual, even if such conduct does not meet the formal definition of “bullying”.

II. Administrative Responsibility:
A. Investigation
The principal or designee after being notified of a complaint will promptly begin an investigation. H/She shall complete the BHRSD Incident Reporting Form when the investigation is complete. The form will include findings of fact, and determinations of acts of bullying are verified. When acts of bullying are verified the form will include recommendations of intervention and disciplinary actions. (Please note that anonymous complaints will not have any discipline actions included until an investigation deems appropriate.)

In addition to any disciplinary action, the principal/designee will report conduct relating to bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation to local law enforcement if s/he believes that criminal charges may be pursued.

B. Intervention for Aggressor
Once verified as a harassing and/or bullying act, a meeting is planned within 3 school days with parents, principal, teacher(s), and adjustment counselor and/or any other invested parties to discuss all incidents and create a behavioral plan that addresses and reinforces consistent positive behavior. The plan will involve consistent reinforcement from home and all stakeholders within the building. The principal will follow through to assign a logical consequence that addresses the problem behavior, involving an extended period of time. This will be detailed in a documented Conduct Plan. All information relative to the incident will be documented using a BHRSD Incident Reporting Form. This will be monitored by all
involved, and give our students a chance to modify their own behavior. The plan will phase out when behavior has noticeably changed.

A second verified harassing and/or bullying act will result in a second meeting with principal, staff, parents, and students. This meeting will have more invested parties trying to resolve the issues with the target and the harasser. The behavior plan will be modified and extended. This may include changes to the initial Conduct Plan.  Anytime the principal or designee feels that harassing activities have occurred,
school discipline may be rendered. Also, anytime the principal or designee feels a criminal act has occurred, the GBPD will be notified to investigate.

C. Intervention for the targeted student(s)
Intervention strategies for a targeted student may include:
● Counseling
● Peer mentoring
● Increased supervision and monitoring
● Empowering student to seek help when victimized
● A written Safety Plan

D. Community Intervention Strategies:
● Broad commitment to reward universal positive behavior expectations
● Planned annual professional development programs addressing bully/target problems.
● Data collection to document history of bully/target problems to examine nature and scope of the problem
● Educate peers to help avoid and deter bullying behavior.
● Offer wide range of resources and prevention techniques to avoid bullying behavior.
● Community wide awareness and involvement of students, staff and parents in examining the modern issue with regard to bullying and cyber-bullying.
● Modeling by staff of positive, respectful, and supportive behavior and relationships to students

Closing a Complaint Regarding Bullying
In the event school staff determines that bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has taken place, the principal or designee will, in addition to taking disciplinary action:
● Notify the parent or guardian of the aggressor.
● Inform parents or guardian of the targeted student of the steps that have been taken to prevent further actions to the extent consistent with applicable legal restrictions.
● Notify local law enforcement, if s/he believes that criminal charges against the aggressor may be pursued.

The above language is intended to be consistent with the BHRSD’s policy addressing Bullying.

Legal References:
Massachusetts General Law Chapter 92