Introduction and Statement of Purpose
Concord Academy does not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form. Respect for others is expected of all members of the community. Among Concord Academy’s aims is the provision of a safe, secure, and positive environment in which each student can develop the knowledge, skills, self-confidence, and maturity to respect and care for themself and others. To this end, the school aims to establish a community of trust in which everyone feels valued and safe, and where individual differences are appreciated, understood, and accepted.
The school is committed to maintaining an environment where students are free from bullying and cyberbullying and the effects thereof. The school recognizes that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including, but not limited to: race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnancy 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. Bullying can include, but is not limited to, remarks; rumors; threats; gestures; physical contact; the display or transmission of images; written, verbal, or electronic statements; or other unwelcome or demeaning acts. Students whose statements or actions, on or off-campus, constitute disrespect, mockery, intimidation, harassment, or bullying (including cyberbullying) will be subject to disciplinary action. The school takes immediate action to support vulnerable students and to provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies needed to prevent or respond to bullying or harassment. Additional legal definitions and consequences can be found below.
Definitions Under the Law
The following definitions are drawn from the Massachusetts law against bullying (M.G.L. c.71, s. 37O). Note, however, that the school reserves the right to take disciplinary action with respect to any form of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation, regardless of whether the conduct meets the formal, legal definition of those terms.
Aggressor. An aggressor is a student, group of students, or any member of a school staff including but not limited to an educator, administrator, school nurse, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional, who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.
Bullying. Bullying is defined as 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 of damage to his 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 the school.
Bullying may include conduct such as physical intimidation or assault, including intimidating an individual into taking an action against his/her will; oral or written threats; teasing; putdowns; name-calling; stalking; threatening looks, gestures, or actions; cruel rumors; false accusations; and social isolation.
Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but not be 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. Cyberbullying also includes:
- the creation of a Web page, blog, or other online presence in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
- the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated above inclusive of the definition of bullying;
- 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 enumerated above in the definition of bullying.
Cyberbullying may include conduct such as sending derogatory, harassing, or threatening email messages, instant messages, or text messages; creating Web sites that ridicule, humiliate, or intimidate others; and posting on Web sites or otherwise disseminating embarrassing or inappropriate pictures or images of others.
Hostile Environment. Hostile environment is defined as 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. 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 bullying.
Target. Target is a student against whom bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.
Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Retaliation Are Prohibited
The school will not tolerate any form of bullying or cyberbullying, 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 cyberbullying are prohibited on school grounds; at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function, or program, whether on or off school grounds; in a vehicle owned, leased, or used by the school; or through the use of any technology or electronic device owned, leased, or used by the school.
The school also prohibits bullying and cyberbullying that does not meet any of the criteria in the paragraph just above, but that nonetheless creates a hostile environment at school for a targeted student; infringes on the rights of a targeted student at school; or materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the school.
School Discipline Policy
The range of disciplinary action for bullying or cyberbullying is the same as for other forms of student misconduct subject to applicable procedural requirements. It is important to bear in mind that stricter standards of behavior may apply under Concord Academy’s policies in order that we may prevent inappropriate verbal and physical conduct before a student has been subject to bullying as it is defined under the law. For example, although the law defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, and/ or gestures, the school reserves the right to apply disciplinary measures and other corrective action in a case of a single expression, act, or gesture, if the school determines that it is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures or other remedial action or that the repetition of that expression, act, or gesture might reasonably result in bullying as defined under the law.
Reporting Bullying or Retaliation
Any student who feels he or she or any other student has been the subject of bullying or retaliation should immediately report the matter to the acting director of student life or any other staff member or teacher with whom they would feel more comfortable making the report. Any parent or guardian who believes that a student has been the subject of bullying or retaliation should immediately report the matter to the acting director of student life. Student and parent/guardian reports of bullying may be made anonymously, although no disciplinary action will be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Any faculty or staff member who has witnessed or otherwise become aware of any bullying or retaliation must, by law, report it immediately to the acting director of student life or the head of school.
A student who knowingly makes a false report of bullying or retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. If a parent or guardian knowingly makes a false report of bullying or retaliation, the school may terminate the enrollment of any children of that parent or guardian. An employee who knowingly makes a false report of bullying or retaliation—or who fails immediately to report an instance of bullying or retaliation of which they are aware—will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
School Response to Allegations of Bullying or Retaliation
Once an allegation of bullying or retaliation is received, a prompt investigation of the charge will be conducted by the acting director of student life. The investigation will follow the procedures for all disciplinary infractions and will take into account all of the relevant circumstances, including the nature of the allegations and the ages of the students involved.
If the acting director of student life, in consultation with the head of school, determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, they shall:
- notify the local law enforcement agency;
- take appropriate disciplinary action, which may include the full range of disciplinary sanctions for student misconduct, up to and including dismissal from the school, balancing the need for accountability and the need to teach appropriate behavior;
- notify the parent/guardian of the target and of the aggressor of this finding and of the school’s procedures for responding to it;
- assess the target’s need for protection and take appropriate steps as necessary to restore a sense of safety for the target;
- in consultation with the school’s counselor, refer aggressors, targets, and family members of such students for counseling or other services, as appropriate;
- report to the administrator of another school if an incident of bullying or retaliation involves students from another secondary school and Concord Academy is the first to be informed of the bullying or retaliation.
Resolution and Follow-Up
Upon the close of the investigation and determination of applicable disciplinary action, school personnel will promptly provide notice to the parent/guardian of the target and the aggressor. Notice will indicate what action is being taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation.
If appropriate, within a reasonable time period following closure of the complaint, the acting director of student life, or designee, will contact the target to determine whether there has been any recurrence of the prohibited conduct.
For all reports of bullying or retaliation, the school will retain a report of the complaint, containing the name of the complainant, the date of the complaint, a brief statement of the nature of the complaint, the outcome of the investigation, and the action taken.
Notification and Training
The school will provide written notice of the relevant student-related sections of this policy to students and parents/guardians at least annually. The notification to students will be in age-appropriate terms. Relevant portions of the policy will be included in the student handbook.
The school will post the entire policy on its Web site.
The school will provide training on this policy for all faculty and staff at least annually. The training at a minimum will include a review of the reporting obligations for all faculty and staff and the processes that the school will follow in response to a report of bullying or retaliation. The policy, or relevant portions thereof, will be included in the employee handbook.
Reviewing and Updating This Plan
The policy will be updated at least once every two years. In connection with that update, the head of school or designee will be responsible for reviewing the policy, reviewing the file of reported incidents of bullying or retaliation in at least the preceding two years, and undertaking such other steps as may be appropriate to evaluate the effectiveness of this policy and the school’s compliance with the plan and any laws or regulations relating thereto.
This plan is intended to (1) prevent bullying and cyberbullying among our students, (2) encourage students and their parents to have confidence in the school’s procedures and to come forward promptly whenever a student is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this or any other school policy, and (3) implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when they are found to be warranted.