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Anti-bullying Policy

Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy and Plan

Revised 12/12/2018

1.1 Commitment

Riverview School is committed to creating a safe, caring, respectful learning environment for all students. We expect that all members of our community will treat each other with civility and respect. Our staff and students will continue to live by our motto of “caring, teaching, guiding”.

Our School strictly enforces its policy against bullying of any students or staff. It is the policy of the School to provide and maintain a learning environment that is free from bullying by any member of the school community, student or staff, and any other verbal or physical misconduct that disrupts or makes the learning environment unsafe. School staff includes, but is not limited to: educators, residential staff, administrators, health care center workers including school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus and other drivers, athletic and other coaches, advisors, paraprofessionals, staff overseeing extracurricular activity, and support staff.

1.2 Definitions

Bullying, as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, is the repeated use by one or more students or a member of a school 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 target or damage to the target’s property;
ii. places the target in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself or of damage to his or her
property;
iii. creates a hostile environment at school for the target; iv. infringes on the rights of the target at school; or
v. materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

Aggressor is a student or a member of a school staff who engages in bullying, cyber-bullying or retaliation towards a student.

Cyberbullying, is 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 any form of intimidation or reprisal, directed against a student who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.

School Staff includes, but is not limited to, educators, residential staff, administrators, health care center workers, including school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus and other drivers, athletic and other coaches, advisors, paraprofessionals, staff overseeing extracurricular activities, and support staff.

Target is a student against whom bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation has been perpetrated.

1.3 Policy Against Bullying

Bullying is prohibited on school grounds, property, areas immediately adjacent to the school grounds, at school-sponsored or school related activities, functions or programs whether on or off school grounds, on school buses, vans or other vehicles, or through the use of technology or an electronic device (cyberbullying). 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.

Bullying is also prohibited at a location, activity, function or program that is not school-related or through the use of technology or an electronic device (cyberbullying), if the act or acts in question create a hostile environment at school for the target, infringe on the rights of the target at school, or materially and substantially disrupt the education process or the safe and orderly operation of the School.

Administrators and staff will make clear to students and staff that bullying is not to be tolerated and will be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including suspension and expulsion for students and termination for employees. All students will be required to read and sign a “Safe Learning Environment Pledge” annually (See attached.)

All staff members are required to report any bullying they see or learn about. Administrators will promptly and reasonably investigate all allegations of bullying. The Advisors or Residential Program Coordinators will be responsible for handling all initial complaints alleging bullying. These initial complaints would then be reported to the Administrative Team. Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, who provides information during an investigation, or who is a witness to or has reliable information about bullying, is prohibited.

The Riverview School Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan, set forth below, is published in response to the Massachusetts Law Against Bullying and is an integral part of our effort to promote learning and to prevent behavior that can impede the learning process. Riverview’s plan spells out the school’s comprehensive approach to addressing bullying, cyber-bullying and retaliation.

This plan is consistent with broader protections at Riverview against discrimination, harassment, bullying, and retaliation that appear in our Student/Parent Handbook and the Personnel Handbook.

As a school for students with special needs (complex language, learning and cognitive disabilities), we recognize that our students may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of teasing or bullying. Additionally, certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying 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. We will use the proactive measures outlined to create a safe supportive environment and to provide all of our students with the skills, knowledge and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying or teasing.

It is also important to acknowledge that Riverview students, due to cognitive, social, and language challenges, may unintentionally hurt or offend others. There is, in many cases, no malicious intent to these behaviors or remarks, which are oftentimes a result of lack of understanding of social conventions or limited experience with interpersonal relationships. While such incidents do not constitute bullying, every effort will be made to provide supports, instruction, and guidance in helping the student(s) involved to resolve such conflicts and find more acceptable manners of interacting.

It is essential that this plan be well understood by all members of the Riverview community. The Administrative Team is responsible for the implementation and administration. Questions and concerns related to this may be referred to the Administrative Team.

1.4 Reporting Bullying and/or Retaliation

Reports of bullying or retaliation may be made by staff, students, parents or guardians, or others, and may be oral or written. Oral reports made by or to a staff member shall be recorded in writing. A school or staff member is required to report immediately to an Administrator or designee or to the Head of School or designee when Administrator is the alleged aggressor or to the Assistant Head of School or designee when the Head of School is the alleged aggressor, any instance of bullying or retaliation the staff member becomes aware of or witnesses. Reports made by students, parents or guardians, or other individuals who are not school staff members, may be made anonymously. Reporting resources available to the school community include, but not limited to, the Incident Reporting Form, voicemail, and email.

Use of an Incident Reporting Form is not required as a condition of making a report. The Incident Reporting Form is available:

  1. On the school’s portal;
  2. In the school’s main office;
  3. From any member of the Administrative Team;
  4. From any of the Advisors;
  5. From the Residential Office.

At the beginning of each school year, designated Administrators will provide the school community, including administrators, staff, students, and parents or guardians, with written notice of its policies for reporting acts of bullying and retaliation as part of the Personnel Manual and Student/Parent Handbook (located on the Riverview Portal). The plan is also accessible via the school website and school portal.

1.4a Reporting by Staff

A staff member will report immediately to an Administrator when he/she witnesses or becomes aware of conduct that may be bullying or retaliation. The requirement to report to an Administrator or designee does not limit the authority of the staff member to respond to behavioral or disciplinary incidents consistent with school policies and procedures for behavior management and discipline. Written documentation must be completed before the end of the staff person’s shift.

1.4b Reporting by Students, Parents or Guardians, Anonymous Sources, and Others

The school expects students, parents or guardians, and others who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying or retaliation involving a student to report it to a member of the Administrative Team. Reports may be made anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Students, parents or guardians, and others may request assistance from a staff member to complete a written report. Students will be provided practical, safe, private and age-appropriate ways to report and discuss an incident with a staff member, or a member of the Administrative Team. Should another person make a verbal report to a staff person, the staff person must immediately notify an Administrator and follow up with a written report before the end of the staff person’s shift.

1.5 Responding to a Report of Bullying or Retaliation

1.5a Safety

Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying or retaliation, the Administrative Team 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. Such protections will likewise be available for a student who has witnessed bullying or retaliation; who provides information during an investigation; or who has reliable information about a reported act of bullying or retaliation. Responses to promote safety may include, but not be limited to, creating a personal safety plan; pre-determining seating arrangements in the classroom, dining room, dormitory, or on the bus; identifying a staff member who will act as a “safe person” for the target; and altering the student aggressor’s schedule and access to the target. The Administrative Team will take additional steps to promote safety during the course of and after the investigation, as necessary.

1.5b Obligations to Notify Others

Notice to parents or guardians
Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the Administrator will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the student aggressor(s) of this, and of the procedures for responding to it. There may be circumstances in which an Administrator contacts parents or guardians prior to the 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 Administrator has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the Administrator will notify the local law enforcement agency. Notice will be consistent with requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and locally established agreements with local law enforcement agency. 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 Administrator 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 Administrator will, consistent with the plan and with applicable school policies and procedures, consult with any other individuals the Administrator deems appropriate.

1.6 Investigation

The Administrator will investigate promptly 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 Administrator or designee will, among other things, interview students, staff, witnesses, parents or guardians, and/or others as necessary. The Administrator (or whoever is conducting the investigation) will remind the alleged 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 an investigation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.

In the event that a staff member is identified as an alleged aggressor, the staff person may be put on paid administrative leave until the investigation is completed. In the event that there is a suspicion of substance abuse, drug/alcohol testing may be required, per the Riverview School Personnel Manual.

Interviews may be conducted by the Administrator, other staff members determined by the Administrator, and in consultation with an Advisor or Residential Program Coordinator, as appropriate. To the extent practicable, and given his/her obligation to investigate and address the matter, the Administrator will maintain confidentiality during the investigation process. Other staff members interviewed will be instructed to maintain confidentiality. The Administrator will maintain record of the investigation.

Procedures for investigating reports of bullying and retaliation will be consistent with school policies and procedures for investigations. If necessary, the Administrator will consult with legal counsel about the investigation.

1.7 Determination

The Administrator will make a determination based upon all of the facts and circumstances. If, after the investigation, bullying or retaliation is substantiated, the Administrator will take steps reasonably calculated to prevent reoccurrence and to ensure that the target is not restricted in participating in school or in benefiting from school activities. The administrator will: 1) determine what remedial action is required, if any, and 2) determine what responsive actions and/or disciplinary action is necessary.

Depending upon the circumstances, the Administrator may choose to consult with the student’s teacher(s) and/or Advisor or Residential Program Coordinator, 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 behavior and to assess the level of need for additional social skills development.

The Administrator 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. All notice(s) to parents will comply with applicable state and federal privacy laws and regulations.

Note well: Because of the legal requirement regarding the confidentiality of student records, the Administrator 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.

1.8 Responses to Bullying or Retaliation by Students

1.8a Teaching Appropriate Behavior Through Skills-Building

Upon the Administrator determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the law requires that the school use a range of responses that balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. Skill-building approaches that the Administrator may consider will include:

  • Offering individualized skill-building sessions based on the school’s anti-bullying curricula;
  • Providing relevant educational activities for individual students or groups of students, in
    consultation with the Advisor and /or Residential Program Coordinator;
  • Implementing a range of academic and nonacademic positive behavior supports to help
    students understand pro-social 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 behavior plans to include a focus on developing specific social skills;
  • Counseling or referral for targets, aggressors, and/or families; and
  • Making a referral for evaluation.

1.8b Taking Disciplinary Action

If the Administrator decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the Administrator, including the nature of the conduct, 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 discipline policy. A range of disciplinary actions, includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Schedule modification
  • Detention
  • In-house suspension
  • Suspension (home)
  • Expulsion

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 state laws regarding student discipline. As noted in 1.7, due to confidentiality requirements, the Administrator is unable to notify 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.

If the Administrator determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.

1.8c Promoting Safety/Protection for the Target and Others

The Administrator 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, including anyone who provides information during an investigation or witnesses/provides reliable information about an act. Adult supervision would be increased at transition times and in locations where such behaviors are 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 Administrator 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 Administrator will work with appropriate school staff to implement them immediately.

1.9 Responses to Bullying or Retaliation by Staff

1.9a Taking Disciplinary Action

If the Administrator decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the Administrator. A range of disciplinary actions, includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Schedule Modification
  • Participation in additional training
  • Requirement of counseling
  • Decision making leave (paid or unpaid)
  • Termination

Within a reasonable period of time following the determination and the ordering of remedial and/or disciplinary action, the Administrator will contact the target to determine whether there has been a recurrence of the prohibited conduct and whether additional supportive and/or disciplinary measures are needed. If, so the Administrator will implement them immediately. Reoccurrence of bullying or retaliation by a staff person following prior intervention may result in immediate termination.

1.10 Resolution, Notification, and Follow-up

Following interviews and any other investigation undertaken, as the School deems appropriate, the Administrative Team will determine whether and to what extent 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 Administrative Team will determine what disciplinary action and/or other remedial action is appropriate and how it will be implemented.

The goal of an investigation and any disciplinary or other remedial process that is imposed following that investigation is to correct the situation to the extent it is reasonably possible and to take such steps as can be taken to prevent there being a repetition of the incident and to prevent the student or students targeted and others who participate in the investigation from being subject to retaliation.

In appropriate circumstances, such as when a crime may have been committed or a child may have been subject to abuse or neglect of the type that is reportable under Section 51A of the Massachusetts laws, law enforcement or another appropriate government agency will be notified.

Upon completion of the investigation, the Administrator who conducted the investigation or designee will meet individually with the student or students who were the target of the alleged incident and will notify their parents of the outcome of the investigation. Follow up will also occur with the student or students against whom the complaint was made and their parents. During these discussions, the school will report the results of the investigation and, where disciplinary or other corrective action is determined to be appropriate, inform the parties of the steps that will be taken to correct the situation. The amount of information provided in these communications may be limited by confidentiality laws protecting student records. Follow-up contacts will occur with any student found to have been targeted in violation of this policy and his/her parents to inquire as to whether there have been any further incidents.

1.10a Problem Resolution System:

As part of this process, the Administrator 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 determination:

Any parent wishing to file a claim/concern or seeking assistance outside of the district may do so with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Program Resolution System (PRS). That information can be found at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/pqa, emails can be sent to compliance@doe.mass.edu or individuals can call 781-338-3700. Hard copies of this information are also available from the Director of Education.

1.11 Programs

Riverview School will implement an anti-bullying program as a required part of the curriculum at each grade level. It will be based on developmentally and age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention using evidence-based curricula. Furthermore, Riverview will provide instruction on civil and ethical behavior at each grade level and hold students and adults responsible for behaving with respect towards one another at all times. The “411” classes (Sexuality Education) will continue to focus on peer relationships and empower students to take action if they feel targeted or if they witness other students engaging in bullying or other unacceptable behavior.

Instruction will include appreciation of human differences and avoidance of behaviors that discriminate against others based on their gender, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion or disability. Activities will include role playing to develop skills, empowering students to advocate; helping students understand the dynamics of bullying, cyber bullying, emphasizing cyber safety, and enhancing students’ skills for engaging in healthy relationships and engaging students in a safe, supportive school environment that is respectful of diversity and differences.

The school will conduct a survey every four years or more frequently as deemed appropriate, to assess the school climate and the prevalence, nature, and severity of bullying in the school. Feedback from the survey will be used to inform improvements, resources, and curricula additions. Additionally, the school will comply with any and all Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) data reporting requirements.

1.12 Training And Professional Development

1.12a Professional Development:

The Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan will include annual professional development of all members of the school staff to build the skills to prevent, identify and respond to bullying and to implement the plan. School staff includes, but is not limited to: educators, residential staff, administrators, health care center workers, including school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic and other coaches, advisors, paraprofessionals and support staff.

The content of the professional development will include, but not be limited to:

  1. developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying;
  2. developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents;
  3. information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among an aggressor, target, and witnesses to the bullying;
  4. 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;
  5. information on the incidence and nature of cyberbullying; and
  6. Internet safety issues as they relate to cyberbullying.

Professional development will also address ways to prevent and respond to bullying or retaliation for students with disabilities that must be considered when developing students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). This will include a particular focus on the needs of students with autism or students whose disability affects social skills development.

Additional areas identified by the school or district for professional development may include:

  1. promoting and modeling the use of respectful language;
  2. fostering an understanding of and respect for diversity and difference;
  3. building relationships and communicating with families;
  4. constructively managing behaviors;
  5. using positive behavioral intervention strategies;
  6. applying constructive disciplinary practices;
  7. teaching students skills including positive communication, anger management, and empathy for others;
  8. engaging students in planning and decision-making;
  9. maintaining a safe and caring environment for all students; and
  10. engaging staff and those responsible for the implementation and oversight of the plan to distinguish between acceptable managerial behaviors designed to correct misconduct, instill accountability in the school setting, etc. and bullying behaviors.

1.12b Written notice to staff

The school or will provide all staff with an annual written notice of the plan by publishing information about it, including sections related to staff duties and bullying/harassment of students by school staff, in the Personnel Manual.

1.13 Collaboration With Families

The Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan will include provisions for educating parents and guardians about the bullying prevention curriculum at the school, how they can reinforce the curriculum at home, how they can support Riverview’s prevention and intervention plan, the dynamics of bullying and online safety and cyber-bullying.

Riverview will provide to students and their parents or guardians annual written notice of relevant sections of the bullying prevention plan in the Student/Parent Handbook.

1.14 Support Services/resources

1.14a Identifying resources

Riverview’s Administrative Team and Advisors (licensed social workers/ licensed mental health counselors) have identified our capacity to provide counseling and other services for targets, student aggressors, and their families. This includes a review of current staffing and programs that support the positive school environment by focusing on being proactive, providing ample structure and supervision services. This includes adopting new curricula, educating staff, establishing safety planning teams, and identifying other agencies that can provide services.

1.14b Counseling and other services

This plan includes utilizing Riverview support services (Social Workers/ Mental Health Counselors), as well as the support of outside therapists who have longstanding relationships with our school. Riverview’s Social Workers/ Mental Health Counselors will team together to outline how our outside resources can assist us in developing safety plans for students who have been targets. Our Speech and Language Pathologists will collaborate with Social Workers/ Mental Health Counselors to provide social skills to prevent bullying and will offer education and/or intervention services for students exhibiting such behaviors. These plans may include: behavioral intervention plans, social skills groups, and individually focused curricula. Support will be provided to family members of the involved student(s) as appropriate.

1.14c 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 or teasing because of his/her 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 or teasing.

1.14d Referral to outside services

With the support of our Advisors, Riverview will establish a referring protocol for referring students and families to outside services. Clear protocols will help students and families access appropriate and timely services. Referrals must comply with relevant laws and policies. Current local referral protocols will be evaluated to assess their relevance to the Plan, and revised as needed.

1.15 Relationship To Other Laws

Consistent with state and federal laws, and the policies of the school or district, no person shall be discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town or in obtaining the advantages, privilege and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. Nothing in the Plan prevents the school or 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 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 37H1⁄2, 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 Plan covers the behavior.

1.16 Conclusion

This plan is intended to: (1) prevent bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation among any and all members of the school community, both students and staff; (2) to encourage students, their parents, and staff to have confidence in the School’s procedures and to come forward promptly whenever a student is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this or any other School policy and; (3) to implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when they are found to be warranted.

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