Bullying: Peer Abuse in the Schools | Policy 7316

The Board of Education is committed to providing a safe and productive learning environment within its schools. Bullying of a student by another student is strictly prohibited on school property, in school buildings, on school buses, and at school sponsored events and/or activities whether occurring on or off campus. The Board of Education shall require the prohibition of bullying – along with the range of possible intervention activities and/or sanctions for such misconduct – to be included in the District Code of Conduct for all grade levels.

For purposes of this policy, the term “bullying” among children is defined, in general, as: “a variety of negative acts carried out repeatedly over time. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with a more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful.” Bullying can take three forms:

a) Physical (including, but not limited to, hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, taking personal belongings);
b) Verbal (including, but not limited to, taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, making threats); and
c) Psychological (including, but not limited to, spreading rumors; manipulating social relationships; or engaging in social exclusion, extortion, or intimidation).

Engages in Cyberbullying Behavior

As with other forms of bullying, cyberbullying is an attempt to display power and control over someone perceived as weaker. Cyberbullying involving District students may occur both on campus and off school grounds and may involve student use of the District Internet system or student use of personal digital devices while at school, such as cell phones, digital cameras, and personal computers to engage in bullying.

Cyberbullying includes, but is not limited to, the following misuses of technology: harassing, teasing, intimidating, threatening, or terrorizing another student or staff member by way of any technological tool, such as sending or posting inappropriate or derogatory e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures or images, or Web site postings (including blogs).

Cyberbullying has the effect of:

a) Physically, emotionally or mentally harming a student;
b) Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical, emotional or mental harm;
c) Placing a student in reasonable fear of damage to or loss of personal property; and
d) Creating an intimidating or hostile environment that substantially interferes with a student’s educational opportunities.

Also, cyberbullying that occurs off-campus, that causes or threatens to cause a material or substantial disruption in the school, could allow school officials to apply the “Tinker standard” where a student’s off-campus “speech” may be subject to formal discipline by school officials when it is determined that the off-campus speech did cause a substantial disruption or threat thereof within the school setting [Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist. 393 U.S. 503 (1969)]. Such conduct could also be subject to appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with the District Code of Conduct and possible referral to local law enforcement authorities.

Reports of Allegations of Bullying/Cyberbullying Behavior

Any student who believes that he/she is being subjected to bullying/cyberbullying behavior, as well as any other person who has knowledge of or witnesses any possible occurrence of bullying/cyberbullying, shall report the behavior to any staff member or the Building Principal. The staff member/Building Principal to whom the report is made (or the staff member/Building Principal who witnesses bullying/cyberbullying behavior) shall investigate the complaint and take appropriate action to include, as necessary, referral to the next level of supervisory authority and/or other official designated by the District to investigate allegations of bullying/cyberbullying. Investigation of allegations of bullying/cyberbullying shall follow the procedures utilized for complaints of harassment within the School District. Allegations of bullying/cyberbullying shall be promptly investigated and will be treated as confidential and private to the extent possible within legal constraints.

Prevention and Intervention

Personnel at all levels are responsible for taking corrective action to prevent bullying/cyberbullying behavior of which they have been made aware at School District sites or activities and/or reporting such behavior to their immediate supervisor. Further, staff training shall be provided to raise awareness of the problem of bullying/cyberbullying within the schools and to facilitate staff identification of and response to such bullying/cyberbullying behavior among students.

Prevention and intervention techniques within the District to prevent against bullying/cyberbullying behavior and to support and protect victims shall include building-level and classroom-level strategies and activities as determined by administration. Individual intervention will be provided by appropriate staff members to bullies, victims and their parents to help ensure that the bullying/cyberbullying stops.

Prohibition of Retaliatory Behavior (Commonly Known as “Whistle-Blower” Protection)

The Board prohibits any retaliatory behavior directed against complainants, victims, witnesses, and/or any other individuals who participate in the investigation of allegations of bullying/cyberbullying. Follow-up inquiries and/or appropriate monitoring of the alleged bully and victim shall be made to ensure that bullying/cyberbullying behavior has not resumed and that all those involved in the investigation have not suffered retaliation.

Civil Service Law Section 75-b

Adopted: 10/26/2009