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Concord Academy

Appendix G: Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Bullying, and Hazing

Harassment, discrimination, bullying, and hazing are serious offenses, prohibited by federal and/or state law as well as the policies of the school. Concord Academy will not tolerate harassment, discrimination, hazing, or bullying of any kind, whether it is of a general nature or consistent with any of the specific examples described below. Where inappropriate conduct is found, the school will act promptly with the goal of eliminating the conduct and taking whatever other corrective action it deems necessary.

Through education and intervention, the school makes every effort to achieve an educational environment that is free from harassment, discrimination, bullying, and hazing.

Harassment or Discrimination

Illegal harassment or discrimination is conduct or behavior which relates to race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, veteran status, physical or mental disability, national origin, ancestry, or other protected category and is personally offensive or threatening, impairs morale, or is so pervasive or severe that it has the purpose or effect of:

  • creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment;
  • interfering unreasonably with an individual’s academic performance; or
  • creating a situation where academic decisions of a student depend on his or her submitting to and/or not objecting to the behavior.

Discrimination and harassment can take many forms. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • limiting opportunities to participate in certain clubs, teams, or activities based on certain characteristics;
  • slurs, jokes, statements, remarks, questions, gestures, pictures, e-mails, texts, or cartoons regarding legally protected status that are derogatory or demeaning to an individual’s or group’s characteristics or that promote stereotypes;
  • demands for sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment, academic rewards, or continued participation in a program or project;
  • offensive or unwelcome sexual flirtation, advances, or touching;
  • obscene, demeaning, or abusive commentary about an individual’s body or other personal characteristics;
  • audiotaping or videotaping individuals in potentially embarrassing situations and/or forwarding such taped material to others; and
  • responding to refusals to provide sexual favors with verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.

Often harassing behavior results from ignorance or insensitivity to the feelings of others. Being mindful of how one’s behavior is affecting others and communicating the effect of the behavior of others are good ways to minimize harassment.

Bullying

The following definitions are drawn from the Massachusetts law against bullying (M.G.L. c.71, § 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, campus resident, or any employee of the school  including but not limited to an educator, administrator, school nurse, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor, supervisor 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 their 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 Websites 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.

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 an 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 or uses the school’s Internet network.

Concord Academy also prohibits bullying and cyberbullying that does not meet any of the criteria 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.

Hazing

Hazing is defined as conduct or a method of initiation into any student organization which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person, regardless of consent of the individuals involved.

Examples of hazing include, but are not limited to: whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug, or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of a student or other person, or which subjects a student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.

While harassment, discrimination, bullying, and hazing all fall within a spectrum of interpersonal aggression and sometimes violence, they are not synonymous. Hazing is predicated on inclusion and can sometimes be overlooked because it can appear as neither particularly aggressive nor as intended to harm. In addition, hazing can sometimes be confusing for students to understand because they might consent to the behavior. It is important to note that because hazing involves a group context and the power differential of current members and those seeking membership or acceptance by the group, peer pressure and a coercive environment can exist and interfere with consent. Therefore, conduct can be deemed to be hazing regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.

Massachusetts Anti-Hazing Law

Massachusetts has adopted an anti-hazing law (Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 269, § 17) which provides:

Whoever is a principal organizer or participant in the crime of hazing, as defined herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.

The term “hazing” as used in this section and in sections eighteen and nineteen, shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which wilfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person.  Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section to the contrary, consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action.

Massachusetts law also addresses the failure to report hazing as follows:

Whoever knows that another person is the victim of hazing as defined in section seventeen and is at the scene of such crime shall, to the extent that such person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, report such crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable.  Whoever fails to report such crime shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.  M.G.L. c. 269:18.

Massachusetts law also provides:

Each institution of secondary education and each public and private institution of post-secondary education shall issue to every student group, student team, or student organization which is part of such institution or is recognized by the institution or permitted by the institution to use its name or facilities or is known by the institution to exist as an unaffiliated student group, student team, or student organization, a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen; provided, however, that an institution’s compliance with this section’s requirements that an institution issue copies of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen to unaffiliated student groups, teams, or organizations shall not constitute evidence of the institution’s recognition or endorsement of said unaffiliated student groups, teams, or organizations. Each such group, team, or organization shall distribute a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen to each of its members, plebes, pledges, or applicants for membership.

It shall be the duty of each such group, team, or organization, acting through its designated officer, to deliver annually, to the institution an attested acknowledgement stating that such group, team, or organization has received a copy of this section and said sections seventeen and eighteen, that each of its member, plebes, pledges, or applicants has received a copy of sections seventeen and eighteen, and that such group, team, or organization understands and agrees to comply with the provisions of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen.  M.G.L. 269:19.

Concord Academy, through the head of school, will report all incidents of unlawful hazing to appropriate law enforcement officials, as required by law.

Sexual Harassment

Any and all sexual advances or conduct between adults and students is prohibited.

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment.  Sexual harassment is defined as sexual advances (either verbal, electronic, or physical), requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, electronic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature which affects a student’s emotional well-being or interferes with a student’s academic performance or participation in co-curricular or extracurricular activities, or which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive learning or social environment.

The school condemns and expressly prohibits sexual contact or relationships between adults and students and sexual harassment of any kind. While the school must comply with state and federal laws dealing with sexual harassment, and our policy seeks to educate members of the community about the nature of sexual harassment and to do whatever we can to prevent it from occurring.

The school is unequivocally committed to ensuring the safety and integrity of student growth. We actively teach each and every member of the school community about the proper roles and relationships that compose community life. We set forth and seek every opportunity to talk about the importance of boundaries. We expect that the life experience of adults at the school will enrich the student’s learning experience. We place the student’s best interests above all other considerations. All sexual advances (overt or otherwise) between adults and students are prohibited, on or off the grounds, even if a student encourages or appears to encourage such advances. Sexual behavior between adults and students is considered a severe breach of trust and will be dealt with as such.

Identifying Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can take various forms, many of which violate state or federal laws. Not all forms of sexual harassment may be readily apparent to every member of the community. It may be direct and overt, or it may be subtle and ambiguous. It may be behavior that is repeated, or it may be behavior that occurs only once. It is not social or courting behavior between equals, but rather the assertion of power over another individual that puts that individual at a disadvantage.

Individuals might unintentionally act in a manner that others experience as sexually harassing. It is the responsibility of all members of the community to ensure that their words, actions, and interactions with others always reflect the intent to promote respect and trust. Attempts to justify such behavior as a “prank” or “joke” do not change its harassing nature if the object of the joke is not a willing participant. Whatever the basis for the harassment, it is prohibited.

When trying to identify whether behavior is “harassing,” it is crucial to distinguish student-to-student interactions from sexual intimacy between students and adults, which is always prohibited. Physical contact between students that is intended and perceived by those involved as positive, healthy, and appropriate to their age and experience is likely to occur. However, inappropriate physical relationships between students are described and prohibited in the school’s written expectations of students.

When these behaviors occur between an adult and a student, it is irrelevant whether the behavior is welcome or unwelcome. There is no circumstance in which these behaviors between adults and students are permissible. The following behaviors are examples of harassing behaviors. The list is suggestive rather than exhaustive, and members of the community should seek advice and assistance in any circumstance in which they are made to feel uncomfortable by the behaviors of another.

Some examples of sexual harassment are:

  • physical assault, including rape or any coerced or non-consensual sexual relations;
  • sexual advances, whether they involve physical touching or not;
  • sexual physical contact;
  • sexual or lewd jokes, remarks, leering, whistling, brushing against the body, or other suggestive or insulting gestures or comments;
  • inquiries into one’s sexual experiences or activities or discussion of one’s own sexual experiences or activities other than discussed in a confidential medical or mental health visit;
  • audiotaping, videotaping, or otherwise recording others in sexual or other potentially embarrassing circumstances and forwarding or threatening to forward the recorded material to others;
  • intimidating or suggestive remarks about an individual’s sexual orientation, whether actual or implied;
  • sexually suggestive or degrading sounds or remarks (written, oral, or electronically transmitted), including graffiti and the spreading of sexual rumors, made to or about another member of the community;
  • the use of school technology and networks to transmit sexually suggestive, offensive, and/or degrading material, whether received at the school or elsewhere;
  • the open display of sexually offensive objects, pictures, and messages.

Hostile Environment

A hostile environment is one in which discrimination, harassment, hazing, or 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 student who reports discrimination, harassment, hazing, or bullying, provides information during an investigation of such behavior, or witnesses or has reliable information about such behavior.

Retaliation against any individual for reporting violations of the policy, whether by the object of the complaint or someone else, will not be tolerated and will be subject to the same strict discipline as harassment, discrimination, hazing, or bullying itself. Each retaliatory offense will be investigated and sanctioned separately. Individuals who themselves are not complainants, but who participate in an investigation, for example, as witnesses or investigators, will also be protected from retaliation under this policy.

Legal Definitions and School Policy

It is important to bear in mind that stricter standards of behavior than those provided by law may apply under the school’s policies in order that we may prevent inappropriate verbal and physical conduct.  For example, although the law defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, and/or gestures, we reserve the right to apply disciplinary measures and other corrective action in a case of a single expression, act, or gesture, if the school determines in its sole judgment that it is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures or other remedial action.  Conduct need not meet the legal definitions of harassment, discrimination, hazing, or bullying to violate the school’s expectations for appropriate behavior.

Prevention

Concord Academy is committed to providing the healthiest possible school environment for all members of our community. As such, the school regularly engages students, faculty, and staff in opportunities to understand and put into practice community standards and expectations.

Training for students, faculty, and staff that is specific to harassment, discrimination, bullying, hazing, and sexual harassment is provided at regular intervals at developmentally appropriate levels each school year. The aim of such training is to prevent such behaviors from occurring and to equip community members with the understanding, skills, and support to adequately respond to such instances should they occur.

Training occurs for groups of students and employees around particular topics. The school may also require individuals to attend such training to improve their understanding of the issues surrounding harassment, discrimination, bullying, hazing and sexual harassment and the importance of preventing such instances. Information is always available through the director of health & student support services.  In addition, the school works closely with attorneys and health care professionals who can provide additional information and training to members of the school community when needed.

Reporting Complaints

Concord Academy will not tolerate and responds vigorously to any reported harassment, discrimination, bullying, hazing or sexual harassment of students, faculty, staff, or family members of employees residing on the grounds by vendors, contractors, other third parties having agreements or other contacts with the school, supporters of the school (donors, volunteers, alumnae/i, parents), and/or visitors to the school.

Even when students or adults are not certain about whether they have been subject to or witnessed harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment or retaliation, it is important that the behavior be reported. Individuals who have been subject to such behavior often suffer in silence, believing that they are the only one to whom this is happening and wrongly feeling that they are somehow responsible. Inappropriate behavior can continue over many years because individuals think they are alone, or because they fear punishment or unwanted attention and embarrassment if they tell.

Any student who feels they or any other student has been the subject of harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment or retaliation should immediately report the matter to the dean of students or any other member of the faculty or staff with whom they would feel more comfortable making the report. Any parent or guardian who believes that a student has been the subject of harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment or retaliation should immediately report the matter to the dean of students. Student and parent/guardian reports may be made anonymously. 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 matter must report it immediately to the dean of students or the head of school.

Any member of the faculty or staff of the school who witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of discrimination, harassment, hazing, sexual harassment, or bullying in violation of this policy or who becomes aware of retaliation against a student who provides information concerning a violation of this policy is required to report it immediately to the head of school.

Such reporting does not discharge the obligation of the faculty or staff member to report actions covered by reporting laws to the appropriate legal authority. A member of the faculty or staff may not make promises of confidentiality to a student or parent who informs him/her of an allegation of harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, or retaliation.

Although there are circumstances in which an anonymous report can be better than none at all, it is far more difficult to determine the facts of what occurred if complaints are made anonymously. Also, while the school cannot promise strict confidentiality, because information must be shared in order to conduct an effective investigation, the school releases information concerning complaints of harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, and retaliation only on a need-to-know basis, such as to conduct a comprehensive investigation or to ensure that the requirements of this policy and applicable law are met.

Response to Complaints

Once a report of harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment or retaliation is received, a prompt investigation of the charge will be conducted by the dean of students. 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 dean of students, in consultation with the head of school, determines that harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment or retaliation has occurred, they shall:

  • notify the local law enforcement agency when mandated to do so or if otherwise appropriate under the circumstances within the school’s discretion;
  • 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.

False Charges/Cooperation in Investigation

Because allegations of discrimination, harassment, hazing, sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation are serious and can be damaging to accused persons’ reputations, any person who knowingly, maliciously, or recklessly makes a false complaint will be subject to severe discipline. In addition, because candor and honesty are essential to the investigation and remediation process, they are required of all participants, including third-party witnesses.

Any student who knowingly makes a false report of harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, or retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. If a parent or guardian knowingly makes a false report, the school may terminate the enrollment of any children of that parent or guardian.

The withholding of material information in an investigation by complainants, witnesses, and/or the accused party is prohibited. Students are expected to cooperate fully in an investigation conducted by the school; failure to demonstrate such cooperation will lead to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

Resolution and Follow Up

Upon the close of an 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 harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, or retaliation.

If appropriate, within a reasonable time period following closure of the complaint, the dean of students, or designee, will contact the target to determine whether there has been any recurrence of the prohibited conduct.

For all reports of  harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, 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. These records will be accessible on a need-to-know basis only.

Policy Review

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 harassment, discrimination, hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, 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.

Massachusetts Mandatory Reporting

Given our institutional commitment to the well-being of our students and the overall health of our community, any behavior which potentially endangers members of our community is of serious concern. The expectation of the school is that all students, faculty, and staff will address any and all behaviors that are not in keeping with our school mission, policies and expectations.  Behaviors that might qualify as harassing, discriminatory, hazing, bullying, sexually harassing, or retaliatory should be reported immediately internally to the head of school, either directly or through another adult on campus.

In addition to the internal reporting referenced above, there are external reporting laws designed to ensure the health and safety of children in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These laws require schools to monitor and report legally prohibited conduct to outside authorities.

In Massachusetts, a person under 16 years of age cannot give consent. In accordance with Massachusetts law, the head of school is required to report all instances of sexual abuse or suspected statutory rape to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Because the age of legal consent in Massachusetts is 16, the head of school must report even consensual sexual activity involving a student under 16 years of age.

Please also refer to the Hazing section above which includes information on the school’s mandate to report under the Massachusetts Anti-Hazing law.  

In all potentially reportable cases, the school carefully reviews the circumstances to ensure that our students are well cared for and that we are meeting the mandate of the law.