Thayer Academy Anti-Bullying Policy
Thayer Academy Anti-Discrimination Statement
Thayer Academy is proud of its diverse educational community. Thayer Academy does not discriminate with respect to educational opportunities on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, national origin or ancestry, family structure, sexual orientation, or disability, or any other category protected under state or federal law. All students are entitled to all rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally afforded or made available to students at Thayer. The Academy complies with and adheres to all state and federal anti-discrimination laws with respect to its educational policies, admission policies, financial assistance programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs.
Anti-Bullying Policies & Plan
Thayer Academy is committed to maintaining a safe learning environment in which all members of our community treat each other with civility and respect and that is free from all forms of harassment, including bullying and cyber-bullying. In addition to supporting the maintenance of a safe learning environment, please see Thayer Academy’s “Sexual Harassment Policies” and “Anti-Hazing Policies” in the Student Handbook immediately following the section on Thayer’s Anti-Bullying policies and Plan.
Thayer Academy will not tolerate any form of bullying that occurs on school grounds or in connection with any school activity or that otherwise interferes with the educational experience of any student at Thayer Academy. Thayer Academy will support this commitment in all aspects of our school community. Thayer Academy will provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing. Furthermore, Thayer Academy will provide annual training for all employees on its Bullying Prevention & Intervention Plan. Thayer Academy will share information to with parents about the Plan, at least annually.
Certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of bullying, harassment, or teasing based on actual or perceived characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic, status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, or sensory, disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics. With this in mind, Thayer Academy will identify specific steps it will take to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in the Thayer Academy community, and it will provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing. Thayer Academy affords all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law.
Thayer Academy will respond promptly and effectively to any report of bullying or retaliation against any person who has any information about bullying or who has participated in an investigation of bullying. Thayer Academy will promptly investigate the report. If Thayer Academy finds that bullying or retaliation has occurred, we will promptly take action to end that behavior and restore a sense of safety for those who were the target of it. Thayer Academy will impose disciplinary sanctions in appropriate cases, up to and including dismissal from Thayer Academy or termination from employment. Thayer Academy will report to local law enforcement incidents of bullying that may constitute a violation of criminal law.
The following information details the Thayer Academy Bullying Prevention & Intervention Plan (“Plan”) and reflects on our comprehensive efforts to work with students, staff, families, law enforcement agencies, and the community to prevent, intervene, and respond to incidents of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation.
II. Bullying & Cyber-Bullying Defined
The Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law defines bullying as:
"Bullying'', 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 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. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying.
* The law defines a “hostile environment” as “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 the student’s education.”
Bullying includes “cyber-bullying,” which Massachusetts law defines as:
"Cyber-bullying'', 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. Cyber-bullying 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. Cyber-bullying 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.
Thayer Academy’s definition of bullying and cyber-bullying includes but is not limited to the definitions stipulated in Massachusetts law. Thayer Academy, at its discretion, may apply stricter standards of behavior in order to prevent inappropriate verbal and physical conduct before a student has been subject to bullying as it is defined under the law. For example, the School reserves the right to impose disciplinary measures or other corrective action in a case of a single expression, act or gesture, as well as in a case of inappropriate conduct that may not rise to the level of the legal definition of bullying. This may occur if the School determines that the behavior is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures or other remedial action, or if the repetition of an expression, act, or gesture might result in bullying as defined under the Massachusetts anti-bullying law.
In sum, Thayer Academy prohibits bullying:
- On school grounds, which means any building or property that the school owns or uses for educational, athletic, or other purposes;
- At or in connection with any school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program, whether or not the activity occurs on school grounds;
- In any vehicle or other form of transportation owned or used by the school; or
- Through the use of any technology or any electronic device owned, leased, or used by the school.
Thayer Academy also prohibits bullying that does not meet any of the above criteria, but that nonetheless:
- Creates a hostile environment at school for the alleged target;
- Infringes on the rights of the alleged target at school; or
- Materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of the school.
In addition, Thayer Academy also prohibits retaliation against any person who reports bullying, who provides information during an investigation of bullying, or who witnesses or has reliable information pertaining to bullying.
III. Reporting Bullying or Retaliation
Students: Any student who feels he or she or any other student has been the subject of bullying or retaliation should immediately report the matter to his or her Principal (i.e. Upper or Middle School Director), or to any other staff member or teacher with whom they would feel more comfortable making the report. If a reported bullying incident involves the Division Director, the report of bullying should be directed to the Head of School. If a reported bullying incident involves the Head of School, the report of bullying should be directed to the Board of Trustees Chair. Student reports of bullying can be made anonymously, although no disciplinary action will be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report. *
Parents/Guardians: Any parent or guardian who feels that any student has been the subject of bullying or retaliation should promptly report the matter to the appropriate Division Director (i.e. Middle or Upper School Principal). Such reports of bullying may be made anonymously, although the school is prohibited from taking any disciplinary action against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report*. Any parent or guardian who wishes to file a claim/concern or seek assistance outside of the school may do so with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Program Resolution System (PRS). Information about the PRS can be found at http://www.doe.mass.edu/pga, emails can be sent to email@example.com, or individuals can call 781-338-3700. Hard copies of this information are also available at each Principal’s office.
*Although there are circumstances in which an anonymous report can be better than none at all, the school encourages students and their parents and guardians not to make reports anonymously. It is far more difficult to determine the facts of what occurred if complaints are made anonymously. While the school cannot promise strict confidentiality, because information must be shared in order to conduct an effective investigation, the school releases information concerning complaints of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation only as needed to address concerns.
Teachers & Staff: Any faculty or staff member of our school community who has witnessed or otherwise become aware of any bullying or retaliation must, by law, report it to the appropriate Division Director. If a teacher or staff member witnesses an act of bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation in progress, the teacher or staff member is expected to take reasonable steps to stop the act by communicating directly with the person where behavior is considered unacceptable, offensive, or inappropriate. Employees may NOT make reports under this policy anonymously. The Upper School Counselor Jessica Matzkin (firstname.lastname@example.org / 781.664.2281 ) and Middle School Counselor Jarvis Wyche (email@example.com / 781.664.2241 ) are available to assist anyone who may need support in reporting such activity.
Note: A student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. If a parent or guardian knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation, the school may terminate the enrollment of any child(ren) of that parent or guardian. An employee who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation or who fails immediately to report an instance of bullying or retaliation of which they are aware shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
IV. School Response to Allegations of Bullying or Retaliation
Once any allegation of bullying or retaliation is received, a prompt investigation of the charge will be conducted by the appropriate Division Director/Principal*. The nature and extent of the investigation will depend on the circumstances.
If the Division Director determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, he will (i) notify the local law enforcement agency, if he believes that criminal charges may be pursued against a perpetrator; (ii) take appropriate disciplinary action; (iii) notify the parents or guardians of the perpetrator; (iv) notify the parents or guardians of the victim, and to the extent consistent with state and federal law, notify them of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation; (v) assess the victim’s need for protection and take appropriate steps as necessary to restore a sense of safety for the victim; and (vi) in consultation with the Upper and Middle School counselors or others as appropriate, refer perpetrators, victims, and appropriate family members of such students for counseling or other appropriate services.
*If a bullying incident involves the Division Director, the Head of School or designee shall be responsible for investigating the report, and other steps necessary to implement the Plan, including addressing the safety of the alleged target. If a bullying incident involves the Head of School, Thayer Academy Board of Trustees Chair, or its designee shall be responsible for investigating the report, and other steps necessary to implement the Plan, including addressing the safety of the alleged victim.
The following is an outline of the procedure that is pursued once a complaint has been brought to the attention of the School:
An impartial investigation of the complaint is conducted by the Principal/Division Head or designee. That investigation may include (but will not necessarily be limited to interviews with the person who made the complaint, with the student who was the target of the alleged bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation, with the person or persons against whom the complaint was made, and with any students, employees, or other persons who witnessed or who may otherwise have relevant information about the alleged incident. Depending on the circumstances, the Head of School or designee conducting the investigation also may choose to consult with other teachers and/or the School Counselor.
Following interviews and any other investigation undertaken, as the School deems appropriate, the Division Head or designee will determine whether and to what extend the allegation of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been substantiated. If it is determined that the policy set forth in this Plan has been violated, the Division Head or designee will determine what disciplinary action and/or other remedial action is appropriate and how it will be implemented. When necessary, the following steps may be taken:
- In consultation with the School Counselor, refer perpetrators, targets, and family members of such students for counseling or other services as appropriate.
- Take appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. In accordance with Massachusetts law, any disciplinary actions shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.
- Notify local law enforcement if the Division Head or designee believes that criminal charges may be pursued against a perpetrator. Depending on the nature of the conduct, bullying may involve, for example, the crimes of stalking; making threats; harassment; or making harassing, annoying, or molesting electronic communications. In addition, retaliation or threats of retaliation may involve, for example, the crime of witness intimidation.
- Notify the appropriate administrator of another school if an incident of bullying or retaliation involves a student from that school. If an incident of bullying or retaliation occurs on school grounds and involves a former Thayer student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled in a school, Thayer Academy will contact law enforcement consistent with the provisions of the law.
For all reports of bullying or retaliation, the respective Division Head or designee will keep a file of the report, the investigation, and any steps taken in response to a finding of bullying or retaliation.
V. Student & Faculty Education pertaining to the prevention of Bullying or Retaliation and the support of members of our Community who have been victimized.
Thayer Academy takes specific steps to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in Thayer Academy community, and provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying and harassment that may interfere with a safe and effective educational environment. Indeed, the Academy is committed to support this commitment in all aspects of our school community, including curricula, instructional programs, staff development, extracurricular activities, and parent or guardian involvement.
The curriculum of required guidance classes in each division (a course called Decisions) includes topics that comprehensively address bullying, including case studies highlighting the toll on victims, school policies and procedures, state laws, etc. In addition, Thayer Academy periodically convenes assemblies, advisory meetings, and other student gatherings to address the topic of bullying.
In addition annual faculty and staff professional development – including, but not limited to, educators, administrators, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities and paraprofessionals – will review the following topical areas related to bullying: (i) developmentally-appropriate strategies to prevent bullying incidents; (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 a perpetrator, victim, and witnesses to bullying incidents; (iv) research findings on bullying, including information about students who have been shown to be particularly at risk for bullying in the Thayer Academy environment; (v) information on the incidence and nature of cyber-bullying; and (vi) Internet-safety issues as they relate to cyber-bullying. Faculty and staff shall also review annually Thayer Academy’s Anti-Bullying Plan, the content of which is included the Staff/Faculty Handbook.
VI. Additional Notes
The entire Plan is posted on the Thayer Academy website (www.thayer.org/AntiBullyingPlan), and the parent community will receive copies of the Academy’s Anti-Bullying Policies & Plan at the start of each academic year. Thayer Academy has invited comments from various school constituencies, and will continue to do so, periodically.
The Academy reserves the right to modify these policies and plans during the year, and it will formally notify parents prior to the effective date of any changes. The Plan will be reviewed, and as needed, updated at least once every two years. In connection with that update, the Head of School or designee will be responsible for reviewing the Plan, reviewing the file of reported incidents of bullying or retaliation in at least the preceding two years, and undertaking such other steps as may be appropriate to evaluate the effectiveness of this Plan and the school’s compliance with the Plan and any laws or regulations relating thereto.
If required by the state, Thayer Academy shall annually report bullying incident data to the appropriate state department. The data shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the number of reported allegations of bullying or retaliation; (ii) the number and nature of substantiated incidents of bullying or retaliation; (iii) the number of students disciplined for engaging in bullying or retaliation; and (iv) any other information required by the department. Said incident data shall be reported in the form and manner established by the department, in consultation with the attorney general.
If required by the state, Thayer Academy will assess the school climate along with the prevalence, nature, and severity of bullying in the school by administering a student survey developed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at least once every four years beginning with the 2015-2016 school year.