Harassment & Bullying

Harassment

RIGHT TO AN EQUAL EDUCATION
 

A. Non-Discrimination Policy:

State and federal laws prohibit discrimination in education (see MA G.L. c. 622 and c. 282). In the Melrose Public Schools, we do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, gender identity, homelessness, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation with regard to admission, access to programs or activities, or employment opportunities. In the Melrose Public Schools:

No individual shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefit of, or subjected to discrimination, or subjected to harassment in any program or activity of the school because of such student’s race, color, age, sex, gender identity, homelessness, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation (i.e., protected status).

English language learners have the right to counseling and course information in a language they understand. Families of English language learners have a right to school information in a language and/or way they understand. School staff will arrange for interpreters for conferences or meetings related to the education of their child.

No student shall be excluded from any school program or school-sponsored activity because of pregnancy or because of marital or parental status, except where required by health considerations or where the educational process would be disrupted.After giving birth, a student is permitted to return to the same academic and extracurricular programs as before her leave. The district does not require a pregnant student to obtain certification of a physician that the student is physically and emotionally able to continue in school, other than the same health and immunization records that are required of all students. The only limitations or accommodations implemented for a pregnant student will be those deemed necessary by the student’s physician, as documented in writing by that physician.Melrose Public Schools has identified Assistant Superintendent Patricia White-Lambright as the Civil Rights Officer for the following:

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973;
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972;
  • Age Act.

B. Definitions:

  • A “Complaint” is defined as an allegation that a student or employee has been discriminated against or harassed on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion.
  • “Discrimination” means discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, age, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or religion that is excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of the school.
  • “Harassment” means unwelcome conduct on the basis of race, age, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or religion that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive to create a hostile environment for the individual at school. Harassment may include insults, name-calling, off-color jokes, threats, comments, innuendoes, notes, display of pictures or symbols, gestures, or other conduct which rises to the level of a hostile environment.
  • “Sexual Harassment” means unwelcome, sexually offensive or gender-based conduct which is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive to create a hostile environment for the individual at school. Additionally, under M.G.L. c. 151C, § 1, the term “sexual harassment” may also include, but is not limited to, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:— (i) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of the provision of the benefits, privileges or placement services or as a basis for the evaluation of academic achievement; or (ii) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive educational environment.
  • Harassment in any form or for any reason is absolutely forbidden. This includes harassment by administrators, certified and support personnel, students, vendors and other individuals in school or at school related events. When determining whether an environment is hostile, the school district examines the context, nature, frequency, and location of the sexual or gender-based incidents, as well as the identity, number and relationships of the persons involved. The school district must consider whether the alleged harassment was sufficient to have created such an environment for a reasonable person of the same age, gender, and experience as the alleged victim, and under similar circumstances.
  • Retaliation against any individual who has brought harassment or other inappropriate behavior to the attention of school officials or who has cooperated in an investigation of a complaint under this policy is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the Melrose Public Schools. Persons who engage in harassment or retaliation may be subject to disciplinary action, including, but not limited to, reprimand, suspension, termination/expulsion or other sanctions as determined by the school administration and/or School Committee, subject to applicable procedural requirements.

Procedure for Filing Complaints Related to Discrimination or Harassment:

  • If an individual feels he or she has been discriminated against, harassed or has been subjected to retaliation, the student may lodge a complaint with appropriate school staff, the principal of his or her school, or the Superintendent.
  • District staff is expected to report possible incidents of discrimination or harassment of students and fellow employees. Parents and other adults are also encouraged to report any concerns about possible discrimination or harassment of students or employees which have allegedly occurred on school grounds, at school related events, or actions which occurred outside of school but possibly create a hostile environment for a student or employee while he/she is at school.
  • All reports of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation will be investigated promptly and in an impartial and as confidential a manner as possible, to ensure prompt and appropriate action.
  • The appropriate civil rights coordinator, or his or her designee, will conduct a prompt, impartial investigation. Interviews and gathering of information, except in circumstances in which more time is necessary to complete the investigation, will be completed within approximately fifteen (15) school days of the receiving of the complaint. The parties to the complaint will be provided opportunity to be heard as part of the investigation including the opportunity to provide relevant information and identify witnesses for the investigator’s consideration.
  • Within ten (10) school days, the civil rights officer or designee will provide written notice of the outcome of the investigation to both the complainant and the individual accused of the discriminatory conduct.
  • Any individual who is found, after appropriate investigation, to have engaged in discriminatory conduct, or harassing conduct, or retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including suspension or termination of employment. Additionally, the Melrose Public Schools will implement remedial and/or corrective measures that are reasonably calculated to eliminate the discrimination and/or harassment.
  • If a party is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, that individual may appeal, within fifteen (15) calendar days of the notice of the outcome of the investigation by filing a written appeal with the Superintendent of Schools. The Superintendent will issue a written response on the appeal to the grievant and the respondent within fifteen (15) calendar days of receiving the appeal. If the individual is not satisfied with the response, he/she may take the complaint to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Program Quality Assurance, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4096 or other appropriate federal or state agency.
  • All the timelines indicated above will be implemented, as specified, unless the nature of the investigation or exigent circumstances prevents such implementation, in which case the matter will be completed promptly and equitably.
  • Harassment may constitute child abuse under Massachusetts law (G.L. c.119, §51A) and/or a violation of criminal law. Melrose Public Schools will comply with Massachusetts law in reporting suspected cases of child abuse, including those involving sexual harassment, to the Department of Children and Families and/or the Melrose Police.

Bullying

Bullying and harassment of students can create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety for all members of the school community. Bullying can affect the ability of a student to attend school; to learn and progress effectively in school; and to participate in activities inside and outside of school, including traveling to and from school, walking in the corridors, eating in the school cafeteria, playing in the school yard and participating in special or extracurricular activities. Bullying behaviors that are not addressed can lead to serious adverse consequences for students, including academic, attendance or psychological problems. The failure to address bullying behaviors also gives other students the message that it is permissible to engage in negative behaviors.

Prohibition against Bullying and Harassment

Bullying of students occurring in the schools is prohibited by law and will not be tolerated by the Melrose Public Schools. For purposes of this policy, bullying is prohibited on: (1) school grounds; (2) property immediately adjacent to school grounds; (3) at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program, whether on or off school grounds; (4) at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by the district or a school, or (5) through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by the school district or a school.

Consistent with state law, bullying is also prohibited both (1) at a location, activity, function or program that is not school-related and (2) through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased or used by a district or school, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the victim, infringes on the rights of the victim at school, or materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

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 victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Bullying also includes cyberbullying, which is defined as bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but shall 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 shall also include (i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or (ii) 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 in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying. Cyberbullying shall also include 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 in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying.

Bullying is exhibited by, but is not limited, to, the following types of behavior:

  • Physical or emotional aggression against students, including assaults on student property;
  • Intimidation or extortion, in any form, including:
    • Cyberbullying;
    • Oral or written threats, including by electronic means;
    • Threatening looks or gestures;
    • Teasing, name-calling or putdowns;
    • Cruel rumors;
    • False accusations; and
    • Social isolation, such as shunning.

PREVENTING BULLYING

In an effort to prevent bullying whenever possible, Melrose Public Schools will ensure that every staff member receives anti-bullying training. The Melrose Public School curriculum will include instruction of age and developmentally appropriate material covering anti-bullying. Where applicable, student’s Individualized Education Programs should include specific guidelines for obtaining skills in avoiding and responding to bullying. To the extent possible, the Melrose Public Schools will support and encourage additional bullying prevention educational opportunities for parents and other community members. All of these measures will meet or exceed the requirements of applicable state law.

Intervention and Response to Alleged Bullying

The Melrose Public Schools takes allegations of bullying seriously and will respond promptly to complaints and allegations of bullying. If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has occurred, school officials will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and to impose corrective action, as necessary. A school employee who observes, suspects or becomes aware of an act of bullying is expected to notify the principal immediately. Depending upon the severity of the incident, school officials may implement a student safety plan; separate and supervise the students involved; provide staff support for students; and/or develop a supervision plan with parents. In addition, school officials may require the offender(s) to work with school personnel on better behavior; recommend that the offender(s) obtain counseling or other therapeutic services; impose disciplinary action, up to and including detention, suspension, involuntary transfer to another district school, expulsion; and/or report incidents to law enforcement officials. Bystanders are encouraged to speak to an adult in the school to further reduce the effect of bullying. The Superintendent along with the Administrative Team, will develop administrative guidelines and procedures relative to the implementation of this policy. See the individual school Handbooks for further detail.

Please also read the MPS Statement of Inclusivity