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Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan

Introduction

The Academy’s principles of Community Life are predicated on a value for the welfare and integrity of each individual and for the community as a whole. Any action that jeopardizes the health, safety, well-being, or self-respect of an individual—whether oneself or another member of the Simon’s Rock community—will not be tolerated and is strictly prohibited. Such prohibited actions include bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation.

The Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (the “Plan”) is published in response to Massachusetts law against bullying. The Plan is an integral part of the Academy’s comprehensive efforts to promote learning and to prevent and eliminate all forms of bullying and other harmful and disruptive behavior that can impede the learning process. The Plan is consistent with broader protections at the Academy, which prohibit violence, harm, threat of harm, intimidation, sexual misconduct, discrimination, retaliation, harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, dishonesty, misconduct, and/or other endangering behavior that appear in the Student Handbook, Faculty Handbook, and Employee Handbook.

It is important to understand that stricter standards of behavior may apply under the Academy’s Student Code of Conduct or other policies in order to prevent inappropriate verbal or physical conduct before a student has been subject to bullying as it is defined under this Plan. For example, although the Plan defines bullying as “repeated” use of certain expressions, acts, and/or gestures, an individual may be subject to disciplinary or other action for a single expression, act, or gesture that violates another policy, regardless of whether the Plan covers such behavior.

The Plan applies to all students, faculty, and staff of the Academy. Therefore, it is important that all members of the Bard Academy community read, understand, and adhere to it.

The Dean of Students or their designee will be responsible for the implementation and oversight of the Plan. Questions or concerns related to the Plan may be addressed to the Dean of Students.

Policy Against Bullying, Cyber-bullying, and Retaliation

The Academy will not tolerate any form of bullying, nor will the Academy tolerate retaliation against any person who reports, provides information during an investigation of, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.

Bullying is prohibited by the Academy whether the behavior occurs on or off campus.

  • On campus: on the Academy’s grounds; property immediately adjacent to the Academy’s grounds; at an Academy-sponsored or Academy-related activity, function, or program whether on or off the Academy’s grounds; on an Academy bus or other vehicle owned, leased, or used by the Academy, or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased, or used by the Academy.
  • Off campus: at a location, activity, function, or program that is not Academy-related, or through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased, or used by the Academy, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at the Academy for the targeted student, infringes on the rights of the targeted student at the Academy, or materially and substantially disrupts the education process, the orderly operation of the Academy, or the working environment.

Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying is prohibited.

A student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action.

The Academy recognizes that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment 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 one or more of these characteristics. The Academy’s comprehensive approach to bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation is intended to support vulnerable students and provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies needed to prevent or respond to bullying or harassment. This Plan affords all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law.

Nothing in the Plan prevents the Academy from taking action to remediate discrimination or harassment based on a person’s membership in a legally protected category or a protected category under the Academy’s policies. In addition, nothing in the Plan is designed or intended to limit the authority of the Academy to take disciplinary or other action in response to violent, harmful, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior, consistent with other laws or other Academy policies, regardless of whether the Plan covers the behavior.

Definitions

Aggressor” is a student or member of the Academy’s faculty or staff who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.

Bullying” is the repeated use by one or more students or members of the Academy’s faculty or 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 targeted student or damage to the targeted student’s property; (ii) places the targeted student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself or of damage to his or her property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at the Academy for the targeted student; (iv) infringes on the rights of the targeted student at the Academy; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process, orderly operation of the Academy, or the working environment at the Academy. Bullying shall include cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying” is 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 also includes (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 listed in the definition of bullying. Cyberbullying also includes 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 listed in the definition of bullying.

Hostile environment” is a situation in which bullying causes the Academy’s 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.

"Staff" includes, but is not limited to, educators, administrators, counselors, school doctor and nurses, dining hall workers, physical plant personnel, shuttle drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, and other support staff.

“Target” or “targeted student” is a student against whom bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.

Prevention of Bullying

At the outset of their educational experience, students learn that the Academy is committed to creating and maintaining a safe, healthy, and respectful learning, living, and working environment for all of its community members, and that any action that jeopardizes the health, safety, well-being, or self-respect of an individual will not be tolerated. The Academy’s curriculum emphasizes respect for differences, and faculty members are clear in their expectations for student behavior. Our approach is intended to build on our standard expectations of respectful, fair, and compassionate behavior and to empower our students over time to recognize, internalize, and act on the basis of those values.

In addition to these general programs, the Academy offers several specific offerings to guide students’ decision-making and maintain an atmosphere of respect and civility in our community:

  • Restorative Practices: is an approach to community building that seeks to build relationships and connection between community members—students, staff, faculty, and others—by encouraging these members to speak with, listen to, and understand each other and intentionally providing forums for them to do so. The restorative approach aligns with Simon’s Rock’s early college mission because it underscores the fact that many young adults are ready for more rights and responsibilities than they are typically given. Community members have many forums to engage formally and informally with using the Restorative Practices approach to community building—whether at a house meeting in the residence halls, an office hours meeting with a professor, or a Community Meeting within the greater Simon’s Rock community.
  • Writing and Thinking Workshop: is a multiday immersion in the practices of inquiry and discourse essential to learning and living at Bard Academy. The Workshop takes place in the week before the start of 9th grade and again, in an advanced form, before entry into the early college program.
  • Individual Advising: Students at Bard Academy receive a high level of personal attention from faculty, residence life staff, and student mentors. At the center of these support structures is an academic advisor – in most cases a member of the faculty – with whom students meet weekly during their time at Bard Academy. The advisor works with the student to fulfill academic requirements and to adjust to a new setting with new responsibilities and challenges.
  • Group Advisory: In addition to individual academic advising, Bard Academy students also engage in weekly group advisory meetings. The advisory program, which serves as a peer support group, offers a major source of support for students in the high school program. By providing a supportive and accepting meeting place, advisory groups allow students to voice concerns and problems, address issues that are important to them, and offer each other guidance and support.
  • Wellness, Recreation, and Community Service: As part of our commitment to the development of emotional intelligence and commitment to healthy living practices, all Bard Academy students participate in a Wellness and Recreation requirement. Every other Friday from 2:00pm - 4:00pm, the Campus Physician, in conjunction with counselors from the Wellness Center, conduct a series of workshops on various health-related topics including tobacco, drug, and alcohol awareness; the role of sleep and nutrition in human growth and development; mental, emotional, and social health; healthy relationships; and community engagement. The remaining Friday afternoons from 2:00pm - 4:00pm are reserved for community service opportunities, class field trips, and athletic recreation.

Parents and guardians can reinforce the Academy’s curriculum and this Plan at home, and learn more about online safety, cyber-bullying, and the dynamics of bullying by utilizing the various resources on the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office website for Bullying and CyberBullying.

Reports of Bullying and Retaliation

Reporting by students

Any student who is the target of bullying or retaliation, has witnessed an incident of bullying or retaliation, or has relevant information about bullying or retaliation prohibited by this Plan is strongly encouraged to promptly report the matter orally or in writing to the Dean of Students or to any other faculty or staff member with whom the student is comfortable speaking.

Reporting by faculty and staff

Any member of the faculty or staff who witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying or retaliation in violation of this policy is required to report it immediately to the Dean of Students. 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 bullying or retaliation.

Reporting by parents, guardians, family members, and others

Parents, guardians, family members, and others who witness or otherwise become aware of bullying or retaliation in violation of this policy are strongly urged to promptly notify the Dean of Students.

Anonymity

Faculty and staff may not make reports under this Plan anonymously. Students, parents, guardians, family members, and others may make reports under this policy anonymously. However, no disciplinary action shall be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

Responding to a Report of Bullying and Retaliation

Preliminary Considerations

When a complaint of bullying or retaliation is brought to the attention of the Dean of Students, an assessment is made as to whether any initial steps need to be taken to protect the well-being of students and to prevent disruption of their learning and residential environment while the investigation is being conducted. As appropriate, strategies such as (but not limited to) increased supervision may be implemented to prevent further bullying or retaliation during an investigation.

Obligation to Notify Others

Notice to another school

If the reported incident involves students from more than one school, the Academy will promptly notify an appropriate administrator at the other school(s) of the incident so that each school may take appropriate action.

Notice to law enforcement

At any point after receiving a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, if the Dean of Students or their designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the Dean of Students or their designee will notify the local law enforcement agency. Additionally, if an incident occurs on the Academy’s grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled at the Academy, the Dean of Students or their 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.

Notice to parents or guardians

If after an investigation the Dean of Students or their designee determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the Academy will promptly notify the parents or guardians of any student who was determined to be the target of bullying or retaliation and the parents or guardians of any student who was determined to be the aggressor. The parents or guardians of the targeted student will also be: (1) notified of any action that will be taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation, and (2) informed about the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education’s Problem Resolution System (“PSR”) and the process for seeking assistance or filing a claim through the PSR. In the Dean of Students’s (or their designee’s) discretion, the Academy may choose to contact parents or guardians of any alleged targeted student or alleged student aggressor after a report of bullying or retaliation is received but before an investigation commences or is complete.

All communications will be consistent with state and federal privacy laws and regulations.

Investigation

The following is an outline of the investigative procedure that is pursued once a complaint has been brought to the attention of the Dean of Students:

An impartial investigation of the complaint is conducted by the Dean of Students or their designee (the “Investigator”). The goal of the investigation is threefold: (1) to determine whether and to what extent the allegation of bullying or retaliation has been substantiated; (2) to assess the targeted student’s need for protection, if any; and (3) to gather information that will enable the Dean of Students or their designee to understand what disciplinary and/or remedial measures may be appropriate.

At the outset of the investigation, the Dean of Students or their designee will remind the alleged aggressor, target, and witnesses that retaliation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.

The investigation may include (but will not necessarily be limited to): the review of relevant physical evidence (documents, voicemail, and text messages, photographs, websites, etc.); and, interviews with the person who made the complaint, the student who was the target of the alleged bullying or retaliation, the person or persons against whom the complaint was made, and any students, faculty, staff, or other persons who witnessed or who may otherwise have relevant information about the alleged incident. Depending on the circumstances, the Investigator also may choose to consult with other faculty and/or staff, including the residence directors, the Wellness Center, staff of the Win Commons, and Academic Advisors.

If necessary, the Dean of Students or their designee may consult with legal counsel about the investigation.

Resolution and Follow-up

Following an investigation, the Dean of Students or their designee will determine whether and to what extent the allegation of bullying or retaliation has been substantiated. If it is determined that the policy set forth in this Plan has been violated, the Dean of Students or their designee will determine what disciplinary action and/or other remedial action is appropriate and how it will be implemented.

The range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a student aggressor or a student who knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation includes but is not limited to those listed under the “Restorative Practices” and “Possible Sanctions for Code Violations” sections of the Student Handbook. Faculty and staff members who are found to have violated this Plan in any way shall be subject to the disciplinary protocols outlined in their respective handbooks. Any disciplinary actions shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.

The Academy will take steps reasonably calculated to restore a sense of safety for the targeted students and others, teach appropriate behavior, and prevent further acts of bullying and retaliation. Additionally, when appropriate the Academy will provide counseling or referral to appropriate counseling services for students found to be in violation of this policy, targeted students, and their families.

Upon completion of the investigation, the Dean of Students or their designee will meet individually with each student who was the target of the alleged incident and each student against whom the complaint was made to report the results of the investigation and, where disciplinary and/or other remedial action is determined to be appropriate, to inform the parties of the steps that will be taken to correct the situation. The amount of information provided in these meetings may be limited by confidentiality laws protecting student records.

Any appeal shall be governed by the applicable processes outlined in the Student Handbook, Faculty Handbook, or Staff Handbook.

Within a reasonable period of time following the determination and the ordering of remedial and/or disciplinary action, the Academy will follow-up with any student found to have been targeted in violation of this Plan to inquire as to whether there have been any further incidents and whether additional supportive measures are needed. If so, the Dean of Students or their designee will work with the appropriate faculty and staff members to implement appropriate supportive measures immediately.

Conclusion

This Plan is intended (1) to prevent bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation among our students; (2) to encourage students and their families to have confidence in the Academy’s procedures and to come forward promptly whenever a student is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this or any other Academy policy; and (3) to implement appropriate discipline and/or other remedial measures when they are found to be warranted.

The bullying prevention and intervention plan is current as of October 2017.