OMS Parent Student Handbook - Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan
Overlook Middle School
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District maintains a respectful environment for all. As such, AWRSD is committed to providing all students and staff with a safe, positive and productive learning and working environment that is free from bullying and cyberbullying, and where all school community members treat one another with respect. No member of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District community shall be subjected to harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber-bullying.
This commitment is an integral part of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District’s comprehensive efforts to promote learning, eliminate all forms of violent, harmful, and disruptive behavior and enable all students to achieve their personal and academic potential to become successful contributing citizens of local and global societies in an ever changing world.
PROHIBITION AGAINST BULLYING AND RETALIATION
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District will not tolerate any unlawful or disruptive behavior, including any form of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.
Acts of bullying, which include cyberbullying, are prohibited:
(i) on school grounds and property immediately adjacent to school grounds, at a school sponsored or school-related activity, function, or program whether on or off school grounds, at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased, or used by a school district or school; or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased, or used by a school district or school, and
(ii) at a Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District location, activity, function, or program that is not school-related through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased, or used by the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District, if the acts create a hostile environment at school for the target or witnesses, infringe on their rights at school, or materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
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 district will promptly investigate all reports and complaints of bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation, and take prompt action to end that behavior and restore the target’s sense of social, emotional, and physical safety. AWRSD will support this commitment in all aspects of our school community, including curricula, instructional programs, staff development, extracurricular activities, and parent or guardian involvement.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District understands that members of certain student groups, as referenced in state and federal law, may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of bullying, harassment, or teasing. The District will take specific steps to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in the school community, and provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing as outlined in later sections of this plan.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District recognizes that certain students may be more vulnerable to become targets of bullying, harassment, or teasing based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have 1 or more of these characteristics. The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District will create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in the school community, and provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing.
The AWRSD Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan is a comprehensive approach to addressing bullying and cyberbullying, and the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District is committed to working with students, staff, support personnel, families, law enforcement agencies, volunteers, and the community to prevent issues of bullying or cyberbullying and to enforce this plan, along with state and federal laws. In consultation with these constituencies, the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District has established this Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan for preventing, intervening, and responding to incidents of bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation.
The principal of each school is responsible for the implementation and oversight of the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan within their respective school building.
Below please find definitions of key terms that will be used throughout the plan. Several of the definitions are copied directly from M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, as noted.
Aggressor is a student or any member of 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 who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.
Bullying, as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, 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 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 themself or of damage to their property;
iii. creates a hostile environment at school for the target;
- infringes on the rights of the target at school; or
- materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
Cyberbullying is defined as 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. See M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O for the legal definition of cyberbullying.
Hostile environment, as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, 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 defined as 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.
School Staff includes, but is not limited to, educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, support staff, or paraprofessionals.
Target is defined as a person against whom bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING AND RESPONDING TO BULLYING OR RETALIATION
Reporting Bullying Or Retaliation
Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made by staff, students, parents/guardians, or others, and may be oral or written. Reports made by students, parents or guardians, or other individuals who are not school or district staff members, may be made anonymously. Oral reports made by or to a staff member must be recorded in writing using the Incident Reporting Form.
Reporting by Staff
AWRSD school and district staff are required to report immediately to the school principal or designee when they witness or become aware of conduct that may be bullying or retaliation. If the principal or assistant principal is the alleged aggressor, the report shall be made to the superintendent or designee. If the superintendent is the alleged aggressor, the report shall be made to the school committee. The requirement to report to the principal 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.
Reporting by Students, Parents, Guardians, and Others
AWRSD expects students, parents, guardians and others who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying or retaliation involving a student or staff member to report it to the principal or designee. Students, parents, guardians and others and others may request assistance from a staff member to complete a written report. Students will be provided safe, practical, private and age-appropriate ways to report and discuss an incident of bullying or retaliation with the principal or designee.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District encourages all individuals to report a suspected bullying or retaliation incident as soon as possible.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District promotes reporting a suspected incident in the following ways:
- In-person Reporting: Students, staff, parents/guardians or community members who see or hear of a suspected bullying incident may report the incident directly in-person to a school administrator.
- Electronic Reporting: Students, staff parents/guardians or community members who do not wish to discuss a suspected bullying incident in-person, are encouraged to complete an electronic Incident Reporting Form. A copy of the form is available on the website of each school. Upon completion of the form, it may be submitted electronically or printed and given to the respective school administrator. If the reporter is not sure of the school the person/people involved are affiliated with, the form can be delivered to the Office of the Superintendent at 11 Oakmont Drive, Ashburnham, MA 01430. Upon submission/receipt of the form, it will be sent to the respective school administrator.
- Written Reporting: Copies of the Incident Reporting Form are also available in the main office of each school and may also be available in other locations of the school as determined by the school principal.
Please note that use of the Incident Reporting Form is not required as a condition of making a report. The Incident Reporting Form will be made available in the most prevalent language(s) of origin of students and parents and guardians and will be translated as needed.
Also please note that reports made by students, parents or guardians, or other individuals who are not school or district staff members may be made anonymously. No disciplinary action will be taken against an aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report; however each reported incident will be thoroughly investigated.
Responding To Bullying Or Retaliation when Allegations by a Student
Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying or retaliation, the principal 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 principal or designee will take additional steps to promote safety during the course of and after the investigation, as necessary. The principal 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.
Obligations to Notify Others.
- Notice to parents or guardians. Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal 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 principal or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.
- 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 principal or designee first informed of the incident will promptly notify by telephone the principal 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.
- Notice to Law Enforcement. At any point after receiving a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, if the principal or designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the principal will notify the local law enforcement agency. Notice will be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and the AWRSD locally established agreement with the Westminster Police Department and Ashburnham Police Department. 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 principal 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 principal 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 principal or designee deems appropriate.
The principal or designee will promptly investigate 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 principal or designee will, among other things, interview students, staff, witnesses, parents or guardians, and others as necessary. The principal or designee conducting the investigation will remind the alleged student aggressor, target, and witnesses of the importance of the investigation, their obligation to be truthful and that retaliation against someone who reports bullying or provides information during a bullying investigation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.
Interviews may be conducted by the principal or designee, other staff members as determined by the principal or designee, and in consultation with the school counselor, as appropriate. To the extent practicable, and given their obligation to investigate and address the matter, the principal or designee will maintain confidentiality during the investigative process. The principal or designee will maintain a written record of the investigation.
Procedures for investigating reports of bullying and retaliation will be consistent with school or district policies and procedures for investigations. If necessary, the principal or designee will consult with the superintendent and/or legal counsel about the investigation.
The principal or designee will make a determination based upon all of the facts and circumstances. If, after investigation, bullying or retaliation is substantiated, the principal or designee will take reasonable steps to prevent recurrence and to ensure that the target is not restricted in participating in school or in benefiting from school activities. The principal or designee will:
- determine what remedial action is required, if any,
- determine what responsive actions and/or disciplinary action is necessary.
Depending upon the circumstances, the principal or designee may choose to consult with the students’ teacher(s) and/or school counselor, and the target’s or student aggressor’s parents or guardians, to identify any underlying social or emotional issue(s) that may have contributed to the bullying behavior and to assess the level of need for additional skill development.
The principal 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. Because of the legal requirements regarding the confidentiality of student records, the principal or designee cannot report specific information to the target’s parent or guardian about the disciplinary action taken unless it involves a “stay away” order or other directive that the target must be aware of in order to report violations.
The principal or designee shall inform the parent or guardian of the target about the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s problem resolution system and the process for accessing that system, regardless of the outcome of the bullying determination.
Responses to Bullying.
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District is committed to teaching appropriate behavior and building students’ skills in response to remediate or prevent bullying and retaliation in the following ways:
- Teaching Appropriate Behavior Through Skills-building
- Upon the principal or designee determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the school will use a range of responses that balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O (d) (v). Skill-building approaches that the principal or designee may consider include:
- Offering individualized skill-building sessions based on the school’s/district’s anti-bullying curricula.
- Providing relevant educational activities for individual students or groups of students, in consultation with school counselors and other appropriate personnel.
- Implementing a range of academic and nonacademic positive behavioral supports to help students understand prosocial ways to achieve their goals.
- Meeting with parents and guardians to engage parental support and to reinforce the anti-bullying curricula and social skills building activities at home.
- Adopting behavioral plans to include a focus on developing specific social skills.
- Making a referral to the Child Study Team and/or an appropriate related service provider.
- Taking Disciplinary Action
- If the principal or designee decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the principal 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 or district’s code of conduct. Discipline procedures for students with disabilities are governed by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), which should be read in cooperation with Massachusetts state laws and statutes regarding student discipline. If the principal or designee determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.
- Promoting Safety for the Target and Others
- The principal 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 principal 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 principal or designee will contact the target to determine whether there has been a recurrence of the prohibited conduct and whether additional supportive measures are needed. If so, the principal or designee will work with appropriate school staff to implement them immediately.
Responding To Bullying Or Retaliation When Allegations By School or District Staff
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District has specific policies and procedures that address how school or district administration will respond to and resolve a report of bullying of a student by school or district staff. The policies and procedures address safety planning, notification to parents or guardians and others, investigation, and response.
TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Annual training will be required for all Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District staff, including substitutes on the AWRSD Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan. The training will include preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting suspected incidences of bullying or retationation in addition to specific staff duties under the Plan, and an overview of the steps that the principal or designee will follow upon receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation. All Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District members hired after the start of the school year, including mid year starting dates, are required to participate in school-based training during the school year in which they are hired, unless they can demonstrate participation in an acceptable and comparable program within the last two years.
Ongoing professional development relative to bullying prevention as well as meeting the needs of students with disabilities will also be provided. This will include factors which must be considered when developing students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), with particular focus on the needs of students with Autism or students whose disability affects social skills development.
As required by M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, the content of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District school wide and district wide professional development will be informed by research and will include information on:
- age-appropriate strategies to prevent bullying;
- age-appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents;
- information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among an aggressor, target, and witnesses to the bullying;
- 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;
- information on the incidence and nature of cyberbullying; and internet safety issues as they relate to cyberbullying.
- Additional areas identified by the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District for professional development include:
- promoting and modeling the use of respectful language;
- fostering an understanding of and respect for diversity and difference;
- building relationships and communicating with families;
- constructively managing classroom behaviors;
- using positive behavioral intervention strategies;
- applying constructive disciplinary practices;
- teaching students skills including positive communication, anger management, and empathy for others;
- engaging students in school or classroom planning and decision-making; and
- maintaining a safe and caring classroom for all students.
Written notice to staff. Each school principal will provide all school staff with an annual written notice of the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan by publishing and reviewing information about it, including sections related to staff duties and bullying of students by school staff, in the schools’ employee handbooks.
ACCESS TO RESOURCES AND SERVICES
A key aspect of promoting positive school climates is ensuring that the underlying emotional needs of targets, aggressors, families, and others are addressed by the following:
Each school within the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District will designate members within their building that will participate on the anti-bullying taskforce. This group which consists of school personnel, local law enforcement, advocacy organizations, parents and other interested parties will meet on a bi-annual basis with the sole purpose of evaluating the district’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan. During this process taskforce members will identify current programs and services that are already in place. Once a comprehensive mapping process has been completed the taskforce will develop action steps for addressing any gaps in services. This may include adopting new curricula, reorganizing staff, establishing safety planning teams, and identifying other agencies that can provide services.
Additionally, each school within the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District has staff and service providers available to assist in developing safety plans for students who have been targets of bullying or retaliation, to provide social skills programs to prevent bullying, and to offer education and/or intervention services for students exhibiting bullying behaviors.
These resources include but are not limited to:
- School counselors in each building who are trained in prevention of and response to bullying and other student difficulties.
- Nursing staff in each building trained to respond to physical aggression both medically and through emotional support.
- A full time district Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to consult with staff in addressing behavioral concerns.
- District level school psychologists available to address student needs.
- Ongoing coordination with Westminster and Ashburnham law enforcement agencies in developing school safety plans and in responding to inappropriate behaviors.
- Child Study Teams at all of the schools to support staff in planning for and responding to student needs, including tiered behavioral interventions and supports.
Students with disabilities.
As required by M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3, as amended by Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010, when the IEP team determines the student has a disability that affects social skills development or the student may participate in or is vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing because of their disability, the team will consider what should be included in the IEP to develop the student's skills and proficiencies to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing.
Referral to outside services. All referrals will be consistent with the Ashburnham- Westminster Regional School District Critical Incident Management Plan.
ACADEMIC AND NON-ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES
The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District Core Values are integrated into all academic and non-academic activities. The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District provides age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention in each grade that is incorporated into the school’s and/or district’s curricula. Curricula must be evidence-based. Effective instruction includes classroom approaches, whole school initiatives, and focused strategies for bullying prevention and social skills development.
Specific bullying prevention approaches. Bullying prevention curricula will be informed by current research which, among other things, emphasizes the following approaches:
- using scripts and role plays to develop skills;
- empowering students to take action by knowing what to do when they witness other students engaged in acts of bullying or retaliation, including seeking adult assistance;
- helping students understand the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying, including the underlying power imbalance;
- emphasizing cybersafety, including safe and appropriate use of electronic communication technologies;
- enhancing students’ skills for engaging in healthy relationships and respectful communications; and
- engaging students in a safe, supportive school environment that is respectful of diversity and difference.
General teaching approaches that support bullying prevention efforts. The following approaches are integral to establishing a safe and supportive school environment. These underscore the importance of our bullying intervention and prevention initiatives:
- Setting clear expectations for students and establishing school and classroom routines;
- creating safe school and classroom environments for all students as referenced in state and federal law;
- using appropriate and positive responses and reinforcement, even when students require discipline;
- using positive behavioral supports;
- encouraging adults to develop positive relationships with students;
- modeling, teaching, and rewarding pro-social, healthy, and respectful behaviors;
- using positive approaches to behavioral health, including collaborative problem-solving, conflict resolution training, teamwork, and positive behavioral supports that aid in social and emotional development;
- using the Internet safely; and
- supporting students’ interest and participation in non-academic and extracurricular activities, particularly in their areas of strength.
COLLABORATION WITH FAMILIES
Parent and Guardian Education and Resources. The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District 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 PTO, PTA, School Councils, Special Education Parent Advisory Council, and/or similar organizations.
Notification requirements. Each year the district 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. The school or district will send parents written notice each year about the student-related sections of the Plan and the school's or district's Internet safety policy. All notices and information made available to parents or guardians will be in hard copy and electronic formats, and will be available in the language(s) most prevalent among parents or guardians. The school or district will post the Plan and related information on its website.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER LAWS
Consistent with state and federal laws, and the policies of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District, no person shall be discriminated against in admission to a public school of either town or in obtaining the advantages, privilege and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy or pregnancy related conditions, homelessness, age, disability, military/veteran status, and any other class or characteristic protected by law or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.
Nothing in the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan prevents the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District from taking action to remediate discrimination or harassment based on a person’s membership in a legally protected category under local, state, or federal law, or school or district policies.
In addition, nothing in the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan is designed or intended to limit the authority of the school or district to take disciplinary action or other action under M.G.L. c. 71, § 37H or 37H½, M.G.L. c. 71, §41 and 42, M.G.L.c 76 § 5, or other applicable laws, or local school or district policies, or collective bargaining agreements, in response to violent, harmful, or disruptive behavior, regardless of whether the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan covers the behavior.
PROBLEM RESOLUTION SYSTEM
Any parent or guardian wishing to file a claim/concern or seeking assistance outside of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District may do so with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Problem Resolution System Office.
More information may be found at: https://www.doe.mass.edu/prs/
Email: [email protected]
Updated: April 2021