Bullying: Peer Abuse in the Schools
The Board of Education is committed to providing a safe and productive learning environment within its schools. Bullying of a student by another student is strictly prohibited on school property, in school buildings, on school buses, and at school-sponsored events and/or activities whether occurring on or off campus. The Board of Education shall require the prohibition of bullying – along with the range of possible intervention activities and/or sanctions for such misconduct – to be included in the District Code of Conduct for all grade levels.
For purposes of this policy, the term “bullying” among children is defined, in general, as: “a variety of negative acts carried out repeatedly over time. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with a more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful.” Bullying can take three forms:
- Physical (including, but not limited to, hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, taking personal belongings);
- Verbal (including, but not limited to, taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, making threats); and
- Psychological (including, but not limited to, spreading rumors; manipulating social relationships; or engaging in social exclusion, extortion, or intimidation).
Engages in Cyberbullying Behavior
As with other forms of bullying, cyberbullying is an attempt to display power and control over someone perceived as weaker. Cyberbullying involving District students may occur both on campus and off school grounds and may involve student use of the District Internet system or student use of personal digital devices while at school, such as cell phones, digital cameras, and personal computers to engage in bullying.
Cyberbullying includes, but is not limited to, the following misuses of technology: harassing, teasing, intimidating, threatening, or terrorizing another student or staff member by way of any technological tool, such as sending or posting inappropriate or derogatory e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures or images, or Web site postings (including blogs).
Cyberbullying has the effect of:
- Physically, emotionally or mentally harming a student;
- Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical, emotional or mental harm;
- Placing a student in reasonable fear of damage to or loss of personal property; and
- Creating an intimidating or hostile environment that substantially interferes with a student’s educational opportunities.
Also, cyberbullying that occurs off-campus, that causes or threatens to cause a material or substantial disruption in the school, could allow school officials to apply the “Tinker standard” where a student’s off-campus “speech” may be subject to formal discipline by school officials when it is determined that the off-campus speech did cause a substantial disruption or threat thereof within the school setting [Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist. 393 U.S. 503 (1969)]. Such conduct could also be subject to appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with the District Code of Conduct and possible referral to local law enforcement authorities.
Reports of Allegations of Bullying/Cyberbullying Behavior
Any student who believes that he/she is being subjected to bullying/cyberbullying behavior, as well as any other person who has knowledge of or witnesses any possible occurrence of bullying/cyberbullying, shall report the behavior to any staff member or the Building Principal. The staff member/Building Principal to whom the report is made (or the staff member/Building Principal who witnesses bullying/cyberbullying behavior) shall investigate the complaint and take appropriate action to include, as necessary, referral to the next level of supervisory authority and/or other official designated by the District to investigate allegations of bullying/cyberbullying. Investigation of allegations of bullying/cyberbullying shall follow the procedures utilized for complaints of harassment within the School District. Allegations of bullying/cyberbullying shall be promptly investigated and will be treated as confidential and private to the extent possible within legal constraints.
Prevention and Intervention
Personnel at all levels are responsible for taking corrective action to prevent bullying/cyberbullying behavior of which they have been made aware at School District sites or activities and/or reporting such behavior to their immediate supervisor. Further, staff training shall be provided to raise awareness of the problem of bullying/cyberbullying within the schools and to facilitate staff identification of and response to such bullying/cyberbullying behavior among students.
Prevention and intervention techniques within the District to prevent against bullying/cyberbullying behavior and to support and protect victims shall include building-level and classroom-level strategies and activities as determined by administration. Individual intervention will be provided by appropriate staff members to bullies, victims and their parents to help ensure that the bullying/cyberbullying stops.
Prohibition of Retaliatory Behavior (Commonly Known as “Whistle-Blower” Protection)
The Board prohibits any retaliatory behavior directed against complainants, victims, witnesses, and/or any other individuals who participate in the investigation of allegations of bullying/cyberbullying. Follow-up inquiries and/or appropriate monitoring of the alleged bully and victim shall be made to ensure that bullying/cyberbullying behavior has not resumed and that all those involved in the investigation have not suffered retaliation.
Internet Safety/ Internet Content Filtering Policy
In compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and Regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the District has adopted and will enforce this Internet safety policy that ensures the use of technology protection measures (i.e., filtering or blocking of access to certain material on the Internet) on all District computers with Internet access. Such technology protection measures apply to Internet access by both adults and minors with regard to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or, with respect to the use of computers by minors, considered harmful to such students. The District will provide for the education of students regarding appropriate online behavior including interacting with other individuals on social networking Web sites and in chat rooms, and regarding cyberbullying awareness and response. Further, appropriate monitoring of online activities of minors, as determined by the building/program supervisor, will also be enforced to ensure the safety of students when accessing the Internet.
Further, the Board of Education’s decision to utilize technology protection measures and other safety procedures for staff and students when accessing the Internet fosters the educational mission of the schools including the selection of appropriate teaching/instructional materials and activities to enhance the schools’ programs; and to help ensure the safety of personnel and students while online.
However, no filtering technology can guarantee that staff and students will be prevented from accessing all inappropriate locations. Proper safety procedures, as deemed appropriate by the applicable administrator/program supervisor, will be provided to ensure compliance with the CIPA.
In addition to the use of technology protection measures, the monitoring of online activities and access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet and World Wide Web may include, but shall not be limited to, the following guidelines:
- Ensuring the presence of a teacher and/or other appropriate District personnel when students are accessing the Internet including, but not limited to, the supervision of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, instant messaging and other forms of direct electronic communications. As determined by the appropriate building administrator, the use of e-mail, chat rooms, as well as social networking Web sites, may be blocked as deemed necessary to ensure the safety of such students;
- Monitoring logs of access in order to keep track of the websites visited by students as a measure to restrict access to materials harmful to minors;
- In compliance with this Internet Safety Policy as well as the District’s Acceptable Use Policy, unauthorized access (including so-called “hacking”) and other unlawful activities by minors are prohibited by the District; and student violations of such policies may result in disciplinary action; and
- Appropriate supervision and notification to minors regarding the prohibition as to unauthorized disclosure, use and dissemination of personal identification information regarding such students.
The determination of what is “inappropriate” for minors shall be determined by the District and/or designated school official(s). It is acknowledged that the determination of such “inappropriate” material may vary depending upon the circumstances of the situation and the age of the students involved in online research.
The terms “minor,” “child pornography,” “harmful to minors,” “obscene,” “technology protection measure,” “sexual act,” and “sexual contact” will be as defined in accordance with CIPA and other applicable laws/regulations as may be appropriate and implemented pursuant to the District’s educational mission.
Under certain specified circumstances, the blocking or filtering technology measure(s) may be disabled for adults engaged in bona fide research or other lawful purposes. The power to disable can only be exercised by an administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the School District.
The School District shall provide certification, pursuant to the requirements of CIPA, to document the District’s adoption and enforcement of its Internet Safety Policy, including the operation and enforcement of technology protection measures (i.e., blocking/filtering of access to certain material on the Internet) for all School District computers with Internet access.
Internet Safety Instruction
In accordance with New York State Education Law, the School District may provide, to students in grades K through 12, instruction designed to promote the proper and safe use of the Internet. The Commissioner shall provide technical assistance to assist in the development of curricula for such course of study which shall be age appropriate and developed according to the needs and abilities of students at successive grade levels in order to provide awareness, skills, information and support to aid in the safe usage of the Internet.
Under the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, students will also be educated on appropriate interactions with other individuals on social networking Web sites and in chat rooms, as well as cyberbullying awareness and response.
Access to Inappropriate Content/Material and Use of Personal Technology or Electronic Devices
Despite the existence of District policy, regulations and guidelines, it is virtually impossible to completely prevent access to content or material that may be considered inappropriate for students. Students may have the ability to access such content or material from their home, other locations off school premises and/or with a student’s own personal technology or electronic device on school grounds or at school events.
The District is not responsible for inappropriate content or material accessed via a student’s own personal technology or electronic device or via an unfiltered Internet connection received through a student’s own personal technology or electronic device.
Consent for Student Use
The District’s Acceptable Use Policy and accompanying Regulations will be disseminated to parents and students in order to provide notice of the school’s requirements, expectations, and student’s obligations when accessing the Internet.
“Passive Consent” (Opt-out) Student access to the District’s computer system will automatically be provided unless the parent has submitted written notification to the District that such access not be permitted. Procedures will be established to define the process by which parents may submit a written request to deny or rescind student use of District computers.
The District has provided reasonable public notice and has held at least one (1) public hearing or meeting to address the proposed Internet Safety/Internet Content Filtering Policy prior to Board adoption. Additional public notice and a hearing or meeting is not necessary when amendments are made to the Internet Safety Policy in the future.
The District’s Internet Safety/Internet Content Filtering Policy must be made available to the FCC upon request. Furthermore, appropriate actions will be taken to ensure the ready availability to the public of this policy as well as any other District policies relating to the use of technology.
The Internet Safety/Internet Content Filtering Policy is required to be retained by the school for at least five (5) years after the funding year in which the policy was relied upon to obtain E-rate funding.