The Board strictly prohibits all forms of discrimination, harassment, hazing, intimidation, taunting and bullying on school grounds, school buses and at all school-sponsored activities, programs and events. The Board further recognizes that discrimination and harassment may originate outside of school grounds or school sponsored events, and create, or would foreseeably create, a substantial disruption of student behaviors within the school environment; such harassment or discrimination, when identified, will be addressed under the same provisions.
Discrimination - The act of denying rights, benefits, justice, equitable treatment or access to facilities available to all others, to an individual or group of people because of the group, class or category to which that person belongs (as listed under Harassment as defined below).\
Harassment - The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) defines harassment as the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or by verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being; or conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety. The harassing behavior may be based on any characteristic, including but not limited to a person’s actual or perceived: race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender (including gender identity and expression).
- Gender identity is one’s self-conception as being male or female, as distinguished from actual biological sex or sex assigned at birth.
- Gender expression is the manner in which a person represents or expresses gender to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice or mannerisms.
- Race is the grouping of people based on a shared set of physical characteristics that may be self-asserted or presumed by the larger community.
- Ethnicity is one’s identification with a group of people based on shared cultural traits and/or traditions.
Hazing - An induction, initiation or membership process involving harassment which produces public humiliation, physical or emotional discomfort, bodily injury or public ridicule or creates a situation where public humiliation, physical or emotional discomfort, bodily injury or public ridicule is likely to occur.
Bullying – A form of harassment, which is understood to be a hostile activity which harms or induces fear through the threat of further aggression and/or creates terror. Bullying may be premeditated or a sudden activity. It may be subtle or easy to identify, done by one person or a group. True bullying behavior generally does not occur between students who are friends, and may be demonstrated by the following characteristics:
- Power imbalance – demonstrated by an individual using his/her physical or social power over another.
- Intent to harm – demonstrated by negative, aggressive behavior designed to inflict injury or discomfort, to humiliate or insult.
- Threat of further aggression – demonstrated by verbal or physical behaviors that communicate the likelihood of continued aggression without remorse for prior acts.
- Terror – demonstrated by an escalation in harassing behaviors, it becomes “systematic violence or harassment used to intimidate and maintain dominance.”
(Barbara Coloroso, The Bully, The Bullied & The Bystander, 2003; Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Similarities and Differences between Rough-and-Tumble Play, Real Fighting, and Bullying, 2007)
There are at least four kinds of bullying:
- Verbal bullying includes name calling, insulting remarks, verbal teasing, frightening phone calls, violent threats, extortion, taunting, gossip, spreading rumors, racist slurs, anonymous notes, etc.
- Physical bullying includes poking, slapping, hitting, tripping or causing a fall, choking, kicking, punching, biting, pinching, scratching, spitting, twisting arms or legs, damaging clothes and personal property, or threatening gestures.
- Social or relational bullying includes excluding someone from a group, isolating, shunning, spreading rumors or gossiping, arranging public humiliation, undermining relationships, teasing about clothing, looks, giving dirty looks, aggressive stares, etc.
- Cyberbullying includes online and electronic forms of bullying, such as sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages or images; posting sensitive, private information about another person; pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad; (or) intentionally excluding someone from an online group.
Harassment has been defined in various ways in federal and state law (including the penal law) and regulation. The Board recognizes that these definitions are important standards, but the Board’s goal is to prevent behaviors from escalating to violations of law and, instead, to promote a positive school environment through ongoing social/emotional educational efforts.
Prevention is the cornerstone of the district’s effort to address discrimination and harassment. The components of such an effort involve, but are not limited to, the following:
- Ensuring district programs and curriculum (where appropriate), will incorporate lessons in the development of empathy, tolerance and respect for others.
- Educating all students and staff about the Dignity for All Students Act, and communicating clear school wide and classroom rules about discrimination and harassment that is consistent with the district’s code of conduct.
- Gathering information about discrimination and harassment at school directly from students (through surveys and other mechanisms) in order to identify and address specific student issues.
- Raising awareness among adults of marginalized student populations (as enumerated in the Definitions section above), and offering strategies to intervene in observed instances of discrimination and harassment.
- Providing educational opportunities for students so that they have a better understanding of safe and appropriate electronic communications.
Role of the Dignity Act Coordinator (DAC)
The Board of Education will annually designate staff members who have been trained in human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and expression), and sex, as Dignity Act Coordinators (DACs) for each school building, and at the district level. The district and building level DACs will be responsible for coordinating and enforcing this policy and for regulation in each school building, including but not limited to coordination of:
- the work of the building and district-level DASA committees
- the professional development for staff members
- the implementation of school-wide educational programs
- the reporting, investigation and documentation process
Reporting and Investigation
In order for the Board to effectively enforce this policy and to take prompt corrective measures, it is essential that all students or employees with knowledge of discrimination or harassment report such behavior immediately tothe principal, the principal’s designee or the Dignity Act Coordinator as soon as possible after the incident so that it may be effectively investigated and resolved. The district will also make a DASA Reporting Form available on its website to facilitate reporting. The district will collect relevant data from written and verbal complaints to allow reporting to the Board on an annual basis.
The Building Principal shall maintain a log of DASA incidents of discrimination or harassment as a record for the purpose of tracking repeat offenders, as well as identifying trends. Specifically, all confirmed incidents of discrimination or harassment must be documented in the file of the student offender. Written records should also capture what action, if any, was taken, or why no action was taken. Any founded reports shall remain in the student’s file, in addition to being noted in the electronic Student Management System, and will travel with the student from elementary school through high school. This information will not be shared with potential future colleges or employers. In the event that a district employee is found to have engaged in harassing or discriminatory behaviors towards a student, this record will be designated to the employee’s personnel record in the Human Resources Department.
The district will promptly and equitably investigate all complaints, formal or informal, verbal or written. To the extent possible, all complaints will be treated in a confidential manner, although limited disclosure may be necessary to complete a thorough investigation.
In order to assist investigators, individuals should document reported incidents of discrimination or harassment as soon as it occurs and with as much detail as possible including: the nature of the incident(s); dates, times, places it has occurred; name of perpetrator(s); witnesses to the incident(s); and targeted student’s response to the incident.
If, after appropriate investigation, the district finds that a student, an employee or a third party has violated this policy, prompt corrective and possibly disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the code of conduct, applicable collective bargaining agreement, district policy and state law. If the reported behavior constitutes a civil rights violation, the complaint procedure associated with that policy will be followed, as applicable. If either of the parties disagrees with the findings of the initial investigation, an appeal may be made to the District Dignity Act Coordinator in accordance with the process described below.
It is district policy to respect the privacy of all parties and witnesses to discrimination or harassment. To the extent possible, the district will not release the details of a complaint or the identity of the complainant or the individual(s) against whom the complaint is filed to any third parties who do not have an educational interest. However, because an individual's desire for confidentiality must be balanced with the district's legal obligation to provide due process to the accused, to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, and/or to take necessary action to resolve the complaint, the district retains the right to disclose the identity of parties and witnesses to complaints in appropriate circumstances to individuals with an educational interest. The staff member responsible for investigating complaints will discuss confidentiality standards and concerns with all complainants.
If a complainant requests that his/her name not be revealed to the individual(s) against whom a complaint is filed, the staff member responsible for conducting the investigation shall inform the complainant that:
- the request may limit the district's ability to respond to his/her complaint;
- district policy and federal law prohibit retaliation against complainants and witnesses;
- the district will attempt to prevent any retaliation; and
- the district will take strong responsive action if retaliation occurs.
If the complainant still requests confidentiality after being given the notice above, the investigator will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the request as long as doing so does not preclude the district from responding effectively to cease and prevent further harassing or discriminating behaviors of other students.
Investigation and Resolution Procedure
A. Initial (Building-level) Procedure
Whenever a DASA complaint of discrimination or harassment is received, whether verbal or written, it will be subject to a preliminary review and investigation. Except in the case of severe or criminal conduct, the principal, the principal’s designee or the Dignity Act Coordinatorshall make all reasonable efforts to resolve complaints informally at the school level. The goal of informal procedures is to end the discrimination or harassment, prevent future incidents, ensure students’ safety and obtain a prompt and equitable resolution to a complaint.
As soon as possible, but no later than threeschool days following receipt of a complaint, the principal, the principal’s designee or the Dignity Act Coordinator should begin an investigation of the complaint by:
- Reviewing any written documentation provided by the targeted student(s).
- Conducting separate interviews of all students involved, including witnesses, if any, and documenting the conversations.
- Providing the accused individual(s) a chance to respond and notify him/her that if objectionable behavior has occurred, it must cease immediately. The individual will be made aware of remediation opportunities as well as potential disciplinary consequences.
- Determining whether a formal school safety plan must be established that may include, but is not limited to:
- A school-based stay away agreement;
- Increased program supervision in specified locations;
- Classroom changes or seating changes;
- Peer supports;
- Education regarding positive response strategies;
- Routine check-ins with a trusted staff member for a specified period of time.
The district recognizes that there is a need to balance accommodations which enhance student safety against the potential to further stigmatize the targeted student. Therefore, each case will be handled individually, and the student, parent/guardian, and school administration will collaborate to establish safety provisions that best meet the student’s needs. Follow-up discussion and/or meetings will be scheduled, as needed, to ensure that safety concerns have been adequately addressed and to determine when and if accommodations need to be changed or discontinued.
Parents or guardians of students who have been targeted and accused should be notified within one school day of allegations that are serious or involve repeated conduct.
Where appropriate, and after a documented investigation, school administration may employ informal methods to resolve the complaint, including but not limited to:
a. discussion with the accused, informing him or her of the district's policies and indicating that the behavior must stop;
b. suggesting counseling, skill building activities and/or sensitivity training;
c. conducting training for the department or school in which the behavior occurred, calling attention to the consequences of engaging in such behavior;
d. requesting a letter of apology to the targeted studente.
e.writing letters of caution or reprimand; and/or
f. separating the parties.
An informal resolution must include a documented summary communication with the parent or guardian of both the student(s) who have been targeted and the accused.
Where formal action is necessary, as determined by school administration, appropriate disciplinary action shall be imposed in accordance with district policy, the applicable collective bargaining agreement or state law. School districts should make every effort to attempt to first resolve the misconduct through non-punitive measures.
In such an instance that requires formal action, the investigator shall report back to both the targeted student and the accused, within 10 school days,notifying them in writing, and also in person, as appropriate, regarding the outcome of the investigation and the action taken to resolve the complaint. The actions taken will be in conformance with the Remediation /Discipline/ Penalties section of this regulation. The targeted student shall report immediately if the objectionable behavior occurs again or if the alleged perpetrator retaliates against him/her. Disciplinary action taken as a result of code of conduct violations related to the reported incident may not be communicated in conjunction with this report.
If a complaint contains evidence or allegations of serious or extreme discrimination or harassment, or a civil rights violation, the complaint shall be referred promptly to the Superintendent. The complainant will also be advised of other avenues to pursue their complaint, including contact information for state and federal authorities.
In addition, where theprincipal, the principal’s designee or the Dignity Act Coordinator has a reasonable suspicion that the alleged discrimination or harassment incident involves criminal activity, he/she should immediately notify the Superintendent, who shall then contact the school attorney, appropriate child protection and, if appropriate, law enforcement authorities.
Any party who is not satisfied with the outcome of the initial investigation may request a district-level investigation by submitting a written complaint to the District Dignity Act Coordinator within 30 days.
B. District-level Procedure
The District Dignity Act Coordinator shall promptly investigate and equitably resolve all discrimination or harassment complaints that are referred to him/her. In the event the complaint involves the District DASA Coordinator, the Superintendent or his/her designee will conduct the investigation. In the event the complaint involves the Superintendent, the complaint shall be filed with or referred to the Board President, who shall refer the complaint to an appropriate independent individual for investigation.
The district level investigation should begin as soon as possible, but not later than three school days following receipt of the complaint by the District DASA Coordinator, Superintendent or Board President.
In conducting the formal district level investigation, the district will endeavor to use individuals who have received formal training regarding such investigations or that have previous experience investigating such complaints.
If a district level investigation results in a determination that discrimination or harassment did occur, prompt and appropriate corrective action will be taken to end the misbehavior in accordance with the Remediation/Discipline/Penalties section of this regulation. No later than 30 days following receipt of the complaint, the District DASA Coordinator or Superintendent (or in cases involving the District DASA Coordinator or Superintendent, the Board-appointed investigator) will notify the targeted and accused student(s) and parent(s), in writing, of the outcome of the investigation. If additional time is needed to complete the investigation or take appropriate action, investigators will provide all parties with a written status report within 30 days following receipt of the complaint.
Any party who is not satisfied with the outcome of the district-level investigation may appeal to the Board of Education by submitting a written request to the Board President within 30 days.
C. Board-level Procedure
When a request for review by the Board has been made, the Superintendent shall submit all written statements and other materials concerning the case to the President of the Board.
The Board shall notify all parties concerned of the time and place when a hearing will be held. Such hearing will be held within 15 school days of the receipt of the request of the complainant.
The Board shall render a decision in writing within 15 days after the hearing has been concluded.
The district shall retain documentation associated with complaints and investigations in accordance with Schedule ED-1.
Any act of retaliation against any person who opposes discrimination or harassment behavior, or who has filed a complaint, is prohibited and illegal, and therefore subject to disciplinary action. Likewise, retaliation against any person who has testified assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing of a discrimination or harassment complaint is prohibited. For purposes of this policy, retaliation includes but is not limited to: verbal or physical threats, intimidation, ridicule, bribes, destruction of property, spreading rumors, stalking, harassing phone calls, and any other form of harassment. Any person who retaliates is subject to immediate disciplinary action up to and including suspension or termination.
Any individual who violates this policy by engaging in discriminating or harassing behaviors will be subject to appropriate action, which may include disciplinary action. Remedial responses to discrimination or harassment include measures designed to correct the problem behavior, prevent another occurrence of the behavior, and protect the target of the act. Appropriate remedial measures may include, but are not limited to:
Environmental remediation may include, but is not limited to:
- Corrective instruction or other relevant learning or service experience;
- Changes in class schedule
- Supportive intervention;
- Behavioral assessment or evaluation;
- Behavioral management plan, with benchmarks that are closely monitored;
- Student counseling;
- Parent conferences; or
- Student treatment or therapy;
- Restorative conferences.
- School and community surveys or other strategies for determining the conditions contributing to the relevant behavior;
- Modification of schedules;
- Targeted use of monitors;
- Parent education seminars/workshops;
- Peer support groups.
Disciplinary measures available to school authorities include, but are not limited to the following:
- Students: Discipline may range from a reprimand up to and including suspension from school, to be imposed consistent with the Code of Conduct and applicable law.
- Employees: Discipline may range from a warning up to and including termination, to be imposed consistent with all applicable contractual and statutory rights.
- Volunteers: Penalties may range from a warning up to and including loss of volunteer assignment.
- Vendors: Penalties may range from a warning up to and including loss of district business.
- Other individuals: Penalties may range from a warning up to and including denial of future access to school property.
All students and employees shall be informed of this policy in student and employee handbooks, on the district website and student registration materials. A poster summarizing the policy shall also be posted in a prominent location at each school.
All employees shall receive information about this policy and regulation at least once a year.
Principals in each school shall be responsible for informing students and staff on a yearly basis of the terms of this policy, including the procedures for filing a complaint and information about the impact of harassment and discrimination on all students.
Training needs in support of this discrimination or harassment prevention and intervention program will be reflected in the district’s annual professional development plan, new teacher orientation, in curriculum and will be considered in the budget process. The discrimination or harassment prevention coordinator, administrative employees and other staff, such as counselors or social workers who have specific responsibilities for investigating and/or resolving complaints of discrimination or harassment shall receive yearly training to support implementation of this policy, regulation and on related legal developments.