(This Plan applies to Walker’s three DESE Licensed Programs: Walker Day School, Walker Intensive Residential, and Beacon High School)
In keeping with our mission, Walker programs are committed to providing safe learning environments for all students. Given the special needs and vulnerabilities of our students, it is especially important that such a learning environment be free from bullying, cyberbullying, or harassment of any sort. Walker School and Beacon High School will take specific steps to provide all students with the skills that they need to prevent or respond to bullying. We will educate parents and staff and we will respond swiftly to any incidents of bullying in accordance with our plan.
Acts of bullying, which include cyberbullying, are prohibited at all Walker and Beacon events and activities. This includes on school grounds, adjacent to school grounds, on transportation to and from school, at any school event or trip. In addition, this includes bullying through the use of technology whether or not this takes place at school, if the acts create a hostile environment at school for the target or witnesses, or substantially disrupt the educational process. Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying is also prohibited.
The following definitions are based upon M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O..
Aggressor is a student or adult, including school staff, who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation. As defined in G.L. c. 71, 37O (d), as amended, a member of the school staff includes, but is not limited to: “educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity, or paraprofessional.” A member of the school staff may be named the “aggressor” or “perpetrator” in a bullying report.
Bullying is the repeated use by one or more students or adults, including school staff, of a written, verbal, or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a target that:
i. causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage to the target’s property;
ii. places the target in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself or of damage to his or her property;
iii. creates a hostile environment at school for the target;
iv. infringes on the rights of the target at school; or
v. materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
Cyber-bullying, is bullying through the use of technology or electronic devices such as telephones, cell phones, computers, and the Internet. It includes, but is not limited to, email, instant messages, text messages, and Internet postings.
Hostile environment, is 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 is any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment directed against a student who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.
Target is a student against whom bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.
A. Annual staff training on the Plan. Annual training for all school staff on the Plan will include staff duties under the Plan, an overview of the steps that the program director or designee will follow upon receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation, and an overview of the bullying prevention curricula to be offered at all grades throughout Walker. The basics of the Plan will be reviewed at each New Staff Orientation.
B. Ongoing professional development. Given the special needs of our students, professional development at Walker and Beacon has long been focused on building a positive school climate, respect for differences, meeting the social and emotional needs of students. In addition, professional development will now build the skills of staff members to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying. New content will include:
(i) developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying;
(ii) developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents;
(iii) information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among an aggressor, target, and witnesses to the bullying;
(iv) research findings on bullying, including information about specific categories of students who have been shown to be particularly at risk for bullying in the school environment;
(v) information on the incidence and nature of cyber-bullying; and
(vi) Internet safety issues as they relate to cyber-bullying.
Professional development will also address ways to prevent and respond to bullying or retaliation for students with disabilities that must be considered when developing students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
C. Written notice to staff. Walker will provide all staff with an annual written notice of the Plan by publishing information about it, including sections related to staff duties, in Walker employee handbook and the code of conduct.
Age Appropriate Instruction
Since all of Walker’s students have emotional disabilities, counseling services, social skills groups, and positive behavioral supports are already embedded within the curriculum. In addition, we will be adding specific content related to the prevention of bullying. In the Elementary School we will be using lessons from the MARC Curriculum designed for students in grades K-5. At Beacon High School we will be using the MARC High School Cyberskills Curriculum.
Reporting, Investigating and Responding
A. Reporting bullying or retaliation. Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made by staff, students, parents or guardians, or others, and may be oral or written. Oral reports made by or to a staff member shall be recorded in writing using an Incident Reporting Form. The form will be available at school reception desks, on our website, and via our clinical information system. A school or district staff member is required to report immediately to the program director or designee any instance of bullying or retaliation the staff member becomes aware of or witnesses. Reports made by students, parents or guardians, or other individuals who are not school or district staff members, may be made anonymously.
Walker will: 1) include a copy of the Incident Reporting Form in the beginning of the year packets for students and parents or guardians; 2) make it available in the reception area of each school building, and 3) post it on the school’s website.
At the beginning of each school year, Walker will provide the school community, including administrators, staff, students, and parents or guardians, with written notice of its policies for reporting acts of bullying and retaliation. A description of the reporting procedures and resources, including the name and contact information of the program director or designee, will be incorporated in student and staff handbooks, on Walker website, and in information about the Plan that is made available to parents or guardians.
1. Reporting by Staff
A staff member will report immediately to the program director or designee when he/she witnesses or becomes aware of conduct that may be bullying or retaliation. The requirement to report to the program director or designee does not limit the authority of the staff member to respond to behavioral or disciplinary incidents consistent with school or district policies and procedures for behavior management and discipline.
2. Reporting by Students, Parents or Guardians, and Others
Walker expects students, parents or guardians, and other adults who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying or retaliation involving a student to report it to the program director or designee. Reports may be made anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Students, parents or guardians, and others may request assistance from a staff member to complete a written report. Students will be provided practical, safe, private and age-appropriate ways to report and discuss an incident of bullying with a staff member, or with the program director or designee.
B. Responding to a report of bullying or retaliation.
Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying or retaliation, the program director 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. Responses to promote safety may include, but not be limited to, creating a personal safety plan; pre-determining 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 program director or designee will take additional steps to promote safety during the course of and after the investigation, as necessary.
The program director or designee will implement appropriate strategies for protecting from bullying or retaliation a student who has reported bullying or retaliation, a student who has witnessed bullying or retaliation, a student who provides information during an investigation, or a student who has reliable information about a reported act of bullying or retaliation.
2. Obligations to Notify Others
a. Notice to parents or guardians. Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the program director or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the aggressor of this, and of the procedures for responding to it. There may be circumstances in which the program director or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.
b. Notice to Another School or District. If the reported incident involves students from more than one school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private special education day or residential school, or collaborative school, the program director or designee first informed of the incident will promptly notify by telephone the program director or designee of the other school(s) of the incident so that each school may take appropriate action. All communications will be in accordance with state and federal privacy laws and regulations, and 603 CMR 49.00.
c. Notice to Law Enforcement. At any point after receiving a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, if the program director or designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor and/or if the act of bullying falls into the category of discriminatory harassment or a threat of violence, the program director will notify the local law enforcement agency. Notice will be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and locally established agreements with the local law enforcement agency. Also, if an incident occurs on school grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled in school, the program director or designee shall contact the local law enforcement agency if he or she has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.
In making this determination, the program director will, consistent with the Plan and with applicable school or district policies and procedures, consult with the school resource officer, if any, and other individuals the program director or designee deems appropriate.
C. Investigation. The program director or designee will investigate promptly all reports of bullying or retaliation and, in doing so, will consider all available information known, including the nature of the allegation(s) and the ages of the students involved.
During the investigation the program director or designee will, among other things, interview students, staff, witnesses, parents or guardians, and others as necessary. The program director or designee (or whoever is conducting the investigation) will remind the alleged aggressor, target, and witnesses that retaliation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.
Interviews may be conducted by the program director or designee, other staff members as determined by the program director or designee, and in consultation with the school counselor, as appropriate. To the extent practicable, and given his/her obligation to investigate and address the matter, the program director or designee will maintain confidentiality during the investigative process. The program director or designee will maintain a written record of the investigation.
Procedures for investigating reports of bullying and retaliation will be consistent with Walker’s policies and procedures for investigations. If necessary, the program director or designee will consult with legal counsel about the investigation.
D. Determinations. The program director or designee will make a determination based upon all of the facts and circumstances. If, after investigation, bullying or retaliation is substantiated, the program director or designee will take steps reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and to ensure that the target is not restricted in participating in school or in benefiting from school activities. The program director or designee will:
1) determine what remedial action is required, if any, and 2) determine what responsive actions and/or disciplinary action is necessary.
The program director or designee will consult with the students’ team to consider how the students’ underlying social or emotional issue(s) that may have contributed to the bullying behavior and to assess the best course of action, balancing the need for remedial intervention and disciplinary action.
The program director or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the aggressor about the results of the investigation and, if bullying or retaliation is found, what action is being taken to prevent further acts of bullying or retaliation. All notice to parents must comply with applicable state and federal privacy laws and regulations.
E. Responses to Bullying.
1. Teaching Appropriate Behavior Through Skills-building
Upon the program director or designee determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the law requires that Walker use a range of responses that balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. Since, in most cases, the student will already be participating in a range of social skills and counseling activities, the Team will determine whether additional clinical and/or instructional services are indicated. The Team will also consider whether changes must be made to the students’ Individual Crisis Management Plan, Behavioral Plan, or whether a specific Behavioral Contract is indicated.
2. Taking Disciplinary Action
If the program director or designee decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the program director or designee, including the nature of the conduct, the age of the student(s) involved, and the need to balance accountability with the teaching of appropriate behavior. Discipline will be consistent with the Plan and with the school’s code of conduct.
If the program director or designee determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.
3. Promoting Safety for the Target and Others
The program director or designee will consider what adjustments, if any, are needed in the school environment to enhance the target's sense of safety and that of others as well. One strategy that the program director or designee may use is to increase adult supervision at transition times and in locations where bullying is known to have occurred or is likely to occur.
Within a reasonable period of time following the determination and the ordering of remedial and/or disciplinary action, the program director or designee will contact the target and/or the target’s parent/guardian to determine whether there has been a recurrence of the prohibited conduct and whether additional supportive measures are needed. If so, the program director or designee will work with appropriate school staff to implement them immediately.
Collaboration with Families:
1. Walker will offer education programs for parents and guardians that are focused on the parental components of the anti-bullying curricula and any social competency curricula used by the district or school. The programs will be offered in collaboration with the Walker and Beacon Parent Councils.
2. Each year Walker will inform parents or guardians of enrolled students about the anti-bullying curricula that are being used. This notice will include information about the dynamics of bullying, including cyberbullying and online safety.
Individual Education Programs:
Since most Walker and Beacon students have a social/emotional goal on their IEP, teams will consider whether to include a specific goal or objective related to the prevention of bullying.