For legislation relative to bullying in schools
SENATE DOCKET, NO. 920 FILED ON: 1/13/2009
SENATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No. 242
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Thomas P. Kennedy
To the Honorable Senate and House of
Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the passage of the accompanying bill:
An Act relative to bullying in schools.
Thomas P. Kennedy
Second Plymouth and Bristol
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year Two Thousand and Nine
An Act relative to bullying in schools.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court
assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
(a) Each school district and charter school shall ensure that its public school employees receive combined training each year totaling one (1) hour in the identification and reporting of criminal youth gang activity . The training materials shall be prepared by the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, the Massachuset ts Board of Education, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Advisory Councils.
(b) Any in-service training required by this section shall be provided within the contracted school year and shall be considered creditable towards professional development.
(a) Definition of bullying.
As used in this section, bullying means any intentional written, electronic, verbal or physical act or actions against another person that a reasonable person under the circumstances should know wil l have the effect of:
(1) Placing a person in reasonable fear of substantial harm to his or her emotional or physical well-being or substantial damage to his or her property.
(2) Creating a hostile, threatening, humiliating or abusive educational envir onment due to the pervasiveness or persistence of actions or due to a power differential between the bully and the target; or
(3) Interfering with a student having a safe school environment that is necessary to facilitate educational performance, opportu nities or benefits; or
(4) Perpetuating bullying by inciting, soliciting or coercing an individual or group to demean, dehumanize, embarrass or cause emotional, psychological or physical harm to another person
(b) Prohibition of bullying.
(1) Each scho ol district and charter school shall prohibit bullying and reprisal, retaliation or false accusation against a target, witness or one with reliable information about an act of bullying.
(2) Each school district and charter school shall establish a policy which, at a minimum, includes the following components:
(A) A statement prohibiting bullying of any person on school property or at school functions or by use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, computer ne twork or other electronic technology of a school district and charter school from grades kindergarten through grade twelve.
(B) A definition of bullying no less inclusive than that in (a) of this section.
(C) Direction to develop a school-wide bullyi ng prevention program.
(D) A requirement that each school e stablish a site-based committee that is responsible for coordinating the school's bully prevention program including the design, approval and monitoring of the program. A majority of the members of the site-based committee shall be members of the school professional staff, of which a majority shall be instructional staff. The committee also shall contain representatives of the administrative staff, support staff, student body (for school enrolli ng students in grades 7 through 12), parents and staff from the before- or after-school program(s). These representatives shall be chosen by members of each respective group except that representatives of the non-employee groups shall be appointed by the school principal. The committee shall operate on a 1-person, 1-vote principle. In the event a site-based school discipline committee has been established that committee shall vote whether or not to accept the aforementioned responsibilities.
(E) A requ irement that any school employee that has reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to suspect that a person is a target of bullying shall immediately report it to the administration.
(F) A requirement that each school have a procedure for the administration to promptly investigate in a timely manner and determine whether bullying has occurred.
(G) A requirement that, to the extent that funding is available, each school develop a plan for a system of supervision in non-classroom areas. T he plan shall provide for the review and exchange of information regarding non-classroom areas.
(H) An identification of an appropriate range of consequences for bullying.
(I) A procedure for a student and parent, guardian or relative caregiver or lega l guardian to be permitted to provide information on bullying activity. However, this paragraph does not permit formal disciplinary action solely based on an anonymous report.
(J) A requirement that a parent, guardian or relative caregiver or legal guar dian of any target of bullying or person who bullies another as defined herein, be notified.
(K) A requirement that all bullying incidents be reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education within five (5) working days pursuant to Depart ment of Elementary and Secondary Education regulations.
(L) A statement prohibiting retaliation following a report of bullying.
(M) A procedure for communication between school staff members and medical professionals who are involved in treating students for bullying issues.
(N) A requirement that the school bullying prevention program be implemented throughout the year, and integrated with the school's discipline policies.
(c) Dissemination of Policy and Accountability.
(1) Each school distr ict and charter school shall adopt the policy consistent with section (b) of this section and submit a copy to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by January 1, 2011 .
(2) The policy shall appear in the student and staff han dbook and if no handbook is available, or it is not practical to reprint new handbooks, a copy of the policy will be distributed annually to all students, parents, faculty and staff.
(3) The policy shall be submitted to the Massachusetts Department of El ementary and Secondary Education by the first day of January each subsequent year. The Department shall review such policy annually for compliance with State and federal law and regulations promulgated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Educati on.
(4) The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall prepare an annual report, which shall include a summary of reported and substantiated incidences of bullying.
(d) Duties of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Educa tion.
(1) The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall collaborate with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General to develop a model policy, that may change from time to time, that is applicable to kindergarten through grade 12, and post this policy on their websites in order to assist the school districts and charter schools.
(2 ) To the extent that funding is available the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will provide for an award system for scho ols with exemplary programs based on criteria promulgated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education .
A school employee, school volunteer, student, parent, legal guardian or relative caregiver is individually imm une from a cause of action for damages arising from reporting bullying in good faith and to the appropriate person or persons using the procedures specified in the school district and charter school's bullying prevention policy.
(f) Other Defenses.
(1) The physical location or time of access of a technology-related incident is not a valid defense in any disciplinary action by the school district and charter school initiated under this section provided there is sufficient school nexus.
(2) This section does not apply to any person who uses data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, computer network or other electronic technology when acting within the scope of his or her lawful employment or investigation a violation of this section in accordance with school district or charter school policy.
(g) Relationship to School Crime Reporting Law.
An incident may meet the definition of bullying and also the definition of a particular crime under State or federal law. Nothi ng in this section or in the policies promulgated as a result thereof shall prevent school officials from fulfilling all of the mandatory reporting requirements or from reporting probable crimes that occur on school property or at a school function which a re not required to be reported under that section. Nothing in this section shall abrogate the reporting requirements for child abuse or sexual abuse set forth in mandatory reporting laws , or any other reporting requirement under State or federal law.
(g) Rules and Regulations.
Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education may promulgate rules and regulations necess ary to implement this section.
Petitioners: Thomas P. Kennedy