Falmouth Public Schools is committed to maintaining a school environment where students are free from bullying, including cyber-bullying, the effects of such conduct, and retaliation.
Bullying, as defined in M.G.L. c.71, s. 370 is the repeated use by one or more students or by a member of a school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity, or paraprofessional of a written, verbal, or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim or target that:
- causes physical or emotional harm to the targeted student or damage to his/her property
- places the target student in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself or of damage to his/her property
- creates a hostile environment at school for the targeted student;
- infringes on the rights of the targeted student at school; or
- materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the school
Bullying generally involves “picking on” a student over time and may include conduct such as hitting and shoving; pressuring a student into taking an action he/she does not wish to take, words that involve threats, teasing, putdowns, or name-calling; threatening looks, gestures, or actions; cruel rumors; false accusations; and social isolation.
Cyber-bullying is bullying through the use of cell phones, computers, or other technology and may include conduct such as sending mean or threatening email messages, instant messages, or text messages; creating websites that make fun of, embarrass, or intimidate others; and posting or sending embarrassing pictures of others.
Hostile Environment is when the targeted student becomes so concerned about bullying that he/she is unable to participate in, and concentrate on, his/her schoolwork and other school activities.
Retaliation 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.
The Falmouth Public Schools prohibit bullying (including cyber-bullying) and retaliation as defined above both at school and under the following circumstances:
- on school grounds or any space next to school grounds;
- at the bus stop or on school buses or any other school vehicle;
- at any school-sponsored, or school-related activity, function, or program;
- through use of any school computer, internet connection, or other school-based technology;
- at a location or during activities that are not school related, or by using a 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.
Students who believe they are targets of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation, or who know about bullying or cyber-bullying conduct, should report the conduct to the school principal. Students also may report the conduct to a teacher, guidance counselor, or other school staff member, who will in turn report the incident to the principal.
Addressing Concerns Regarding Bullying
The principal or his/her designee will be responsible for taking steps to investigate and otherwise address reports of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation. Students or members of a school staff who engage in bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation will be subject to discipline by the principal or assistant principal, subject to any procedural requirements. In making disciplinary decisions, the principal/assistant principal will consider both the need for accountability and the importance of teaching appropriate behavior. The range of disciplinary action that may be taking includes, but is not limited to:
- verbal warning;
- written warning;
- missing recess;
- short-term or long-term suspension; or
- expulsion from school
In addition to taking disciplinary action, the principal/assistant principal will report conduct relating to bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation to local law enforcement if she/he believes that criminal charges may be pursued. The following are examples of steps that may be taken to prevent the recurrence of bullying or retaliation:
- Holding parent conferences.
- Transferring student’s classroom or school.
- Limiting or denying student access to part, or area, of a school.
- Enhancing adult supervision on school premises.
- Excluding from participation in school-sponsored or school-related functions, after-school programs, and/or extracurricular activities.
- Providing relevant educational activities for individual students or groups of students. Guidance counselors and others in the school setting who have received training in working with students on interpersonal issues may be helpful in providing such programs.
- Personalized Action Plan and directives for future conduct, including providing the target with a process for reporting any concerns about future conduct immediately. It is critical to involve the student in creating an action plan that involves a reporting process that works for that particular student.
- Arranging for communication between the parties, if appropriate, to assist them in resolving issues which have arisen between them. (Such an approach will be used cautiously since communication can sometimes exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the target’s concerns and since the conduct often involves an imbalance of power.)
- Providing counseling (or other appropriate services) or referral to such services for the target and/or the aggressor and/or for appropriate family members of said students.
Nothing in this handbook provision is intended to prevent school staff and/or the school committee (if applicable) from addressing and taking disciplinary action against a student or staff member for conduct that does not meet the definition of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation, as defined above, but that is nevertheless inappropriate for the school environment.
Closing a Complaint Regarding Bullying
In the event school staff determines that bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation (as defined in this handbook provision) has taken place, the principal or designee will, in addition to taking disciplinary action:
- Notify the parent or guardian of the aggressor;
- Inform parents of the targeted student of the steps that have been taken to prevent further acts of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation to the extent consistent with applicable legal restrictions.