Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation Plan

APPENDIX A: HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION, AND BULLYING PLAN

 Introduction and Statement of Purpose

Far Hills Country Day School (the “School”) expects students to accept responsibility for their actions at all times. Students are expected to behave intelligently and with sensitivity, and to conduct themselves honestly and respectfully whether on or off campus. We believe in providing our students with a safe learning environment, and are committed to instilling an environment that is free from all forms of harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

The School will promptly investigate any report of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. The School administration will act against those who are responsible for acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying once the School has effectively classified the event under the tenets of this plan. The School will impose disciplinary sanctions against offending students, which may include dismissal from Far Hills.

 Definition of Harassment, intimidation, and Bullying

“Harassment, intimidation, or bullying” means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus or off grounds if such behavior substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the School or the rights of other students, and that:

a.   A reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his/her person or damage to his property;

b.   Has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the School;

c.   Creates a hostile educational environment at school for the student; or

d.   Infringes on the rights of the student at school by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.

Bullying by Cyberbullying

New Jersey law defines “cyberbullying” as bullying through the use of electronic communication, which means “a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager.”

Cyberbullying also includes:

“(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 above.”

Examples of Prohibited Conduct include, but are not limited to:

●      A student at home sends a text message to ridicule a targeted student while that student is engaged in an after-school activity on the School’s grounds or on the premises of another school.

●      Using a computer or technology system owned, operated, or sponsored by the School, a student sends a threatening email to a targeted student’s personal email on the targeted student’s home computer, and the School determines that the targeted student would reasonably fear harm as a result.

●      A student, whose harassment of a targeted student was witnessed by a third student, sends a text message or email to the witness threatening to label him/her as a “snitch” or “tattle-tale” to other classmates if the witness tells what he saw.

●      A student uses any form of social media to harass, defame, or slur another student or person.

Prohibition Against Bullying

The School will not tolerate any form of bullying or cyberbullying. Bullying is prohibited (i) on school grounds, property immediately adjacent to school grounds, at school-sponsored or school-related activity, function, or program whether on or off school grounds, at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by the School, or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by the School, and (ii) at a location, activity, function, or program that is not school-related, or through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased, or used by the School, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at the School for the targeted student, infringes on the rights of the targeted student at the School, or materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the School.

Prohibition Against Retaliation

The School prohibits retaliation against any person who reports bullying or cyber-bullying, who provides information during an investigation of bullying or cyberbullying, or who witnesses or has reliable information about bullying or cyberbullying. “Retaliation” means any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment directed against any such person.

Reporting Incidents of Bullying, Cyberbullying or Retaliation

Students: Any student who feels that he or she or any other student has been targeted by an action of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation is strongly encouraged to report the matter promptly to a member of the faculty, administration, or any other staff or faculty member to whom the student would feel more comfortable making the report. Student reports of bullying or cyberbullying may be made anonymously, although the School will not generally take any disciplinary action against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

Parents/Guardians: Any parent or guardian who feels that a student has been targeted by an action of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation is strongly encouraged to report the matter promptly to a member of the School’s faculty or administration. Such reports of bullying may be made anonymously, although the School will not generally take any disciplinary action against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

Faculty and Staff: All faculty members, administrative employees, and staff members—i.e., every person who is employed by the School in any capacity—must immediately report any single action of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation that the person has witnessed, or otherwise become aware of, to the Head of School. There are to be no exceptions. If any faculty member, administrative employee, or staff member witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation but does not report it, the employee may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Confidentiality will be maintained to the extent possible.

If a faculty member, administrative employee, or staff member witnesses an act of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation in progress, the faculty member, administrative employee, or staff member is expected to take reasonable steps to stop the act by communicating directly with the person whose behavior is considered unacceptable, offensive, or inappropriate.

Anonymous Reporting: Faculty members, administrative employees, and staff members may not make reports under this policy anonymously. The School also urges students and their parents/guardians not to make reports anonymously, but anonymous reports by parents/guardians or students of either bullying or retaliation are permitted. Although there are circumstances in which an anonymous report can sometimes be better than none at all, it is more difficult to determine the facts of what occurred if complaints are made anonymously, and disciplinary action will generally not be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report. While the School cannot promise strict confidentiality, because information must be shared in order to conduct an effective investigation, the School will release information concerning complaints and investigations of bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation only on a legitimate need-to-know basis. Finally, a student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action.

Responding to Reports of Bullying, Cyberbullying or Retaliation

Upon receiving a report of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation, the teacher, Division Director, or his/her designee will notify the Head of School. The HOS will promptly initiate an investigation. The nature and extent of the investigation will depend on the circumstances.

 

  1. Preliminary Considerations: When a complaint of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation is brought to the attention of the Head of School, an assessment is made as to whether any initial steps need to be taken to protect the well-being of students and to prevent disruption of their learning environment while the investigation is being conducted. As appropriate, strategies such as increased supervision may be implemented to prevent further bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation during an investigation.

The School is committed to protecting the physical and emotional well-being of all of its students and will take appropriate measures to do so. Thus, the School will be sensitive to the needs of both the alleged targeted students as well as the alleged bullies.

At any point after receiving a report of bullying, cyberbullying, and/or retaliation, the Head of School may notify local law enforcement in the event that the Head of School has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the alleged aggressor.

If the School receives a report of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation involving students from another school, the Head of School may, consistent with state and federal law, promptly notify the appropriate administrator of the other school so that both may take appropriate action.

 

  1. Obligation to Notify Parents or Guardians: It is the policy of the School to notify the parents or guardians of any student who is an alleged perpetrator or target of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation promptly after the complaint has been made.

 

  1. Investigation: An investigation of the complaint will be conducted by the Head of School. The investigation may include, but will not necessarily be limited to, interviews with the person who made the complaint, interviews with the student who was the target of the alleged bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation, interviews with the alleged perpetrator(s), and with any students, faculty, staff, or other persons who witnessed or may otherwise have relevant information about the alleged incident. The Head of School may also contact teachers, parents or guardians, or other individuals with relevant information.

 

All persons will be informed that the School will not tolerate any form of retaliation directed toward an individual who in good faith makes a complaint or participates or cooperates in an investigation. All persons involved in an investigation should understand that false or exaggerated accusations can be extremely damaging to innocent persons; therefore, all claims require the honest and full disclosure of facts by all involved persons. False accusations will not be tolerated and may lead to disciplinary action.

Notification and Response

Following interviews and any other investigation undertaken, as the School deems appropriate, the Head of School will determine whether and to what extent the allegation of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation has been substantiated.

Notification:

If the Head of School determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the Head of School will take the following actions:

●     Notify the parents or guardians of the targeted student and, to the extent consistent with state and federal law, notify them of any action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation;

●     Notify the parents or guardians of the alleged aggressor(s); and

●     Assess the targeted student’s need for protection and take appropriate steps as necessary to restore a sense of safety for that student.

If the Head of School determines that bullying or retaliation has not occurred, the Head of School will notify the parents or guardians of the targeted student and the alleged aggressor(s) of the findings.

Response:

If the Head of School determines that bullying, cyberbullying or retaliation has occurred, that any other provision of this Plan has been violated, or that any other School rule has been violated, the Head of School 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’s counseling staff, refer aggressors, targeted students, and family members of such students for counseling or other services as appropriate.

●     Take appropriate disciplinary action, which may include any form of discipline that the School imposes for other violations of its rules and policies, up to and including dismissal.

It is important to note that stricter standards of behavior may apply under the School’s rules of conduct, in order that the School may prevent inappropriate verbal and/or physical conduct before a student has been subjected to bullying as it is defined under current New Jersey law. For example, although the law defines bullying as “repeated use” of certain expressions, acts, and/or gestures, the School may impose disciplinary measures and other corrective action in a case of a single expression, act, or gesture, if the School determines that it is of sufficient severity to warrant disciplinary measures or other remedial action or that the repetition of that expression, act, or gesture might result in bullying.

For all reports of bullying, cyberbullying or retaliation, the Head of School will keep a file of the report, the investigation, and any steps taken in response to a finding of bullying or retaliation.

Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying by Non-Students

This Plan also applies to harassment, intimidation, and bullying committed by individuals other than students. The School will not tolerate acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying committed by staff members, visitors, volunteers, outside vendors, or other service providers (collectively “non-students”).

Reporting

Students: Any student who feels that he or she or any other student has been targeted by an action of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation by a non-student is strongly encouraged to report the matter promptly to any staff or faculty member to whom the student would feel comfortable making the report. Student reports of bullying or cyberbullying may be made anonymously, although the School will not generally take any disciplinary action against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

Parents/Guardians: Any parent or guardian who feels that a student has been targeted by an action of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation by a non-student is strongly encouraged to report the matter promptly to a member of the School’s faculty or administration, or to the Head of School. Such reports of bullying may be made anonymously, although the School will not generally take any disciplinary action against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

Faculty and Staff: All faculty members, administrative employees, and staff members—i.e., every person who is employed by the School in any capacity – must immediately report any single action of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation by a non-student that the person has witnessed, or otherwise become aware of, to the Head of School. There are to be no exceptions. If any faculty member, administrative employee, or staff member witnesses or otherwise becomes aware of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation by a non-student but does not report it, the employee may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Confidentiality will be maintained to the extent possible.

Investigation

Upon receiving a report of bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation by a non-student, the individual receiving the complaint or report shall notify the Head of School. The HOS will promptly initiate an investigation in accordance with the procedure identified above. Parents or guardians of the targeted student will be notified regarding the investigation and findings. The staff members, visitors, volunteers, outside vendors, or other service providers who allegedly committed the act will be duly notified as well.

Consequences and Remedial Action

Consequences and appropriate remedial actions for any staff member who commits an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying may range from positive behavioral interventions up to disciplinary charges which could result in suspension or termination, and reports to appropriate law enforcement officials.

Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a visitor, volunteer, outside vendor, service provider, and all other persons found to have engaged in harassment, intimidation or bullying shall be determined by the Head of School after consideration of the nature, severity and circumstances of the act, including termination of service agreements and reports to appropriate law enforcement officials.

Notification and Training

The School will provide written notice of this Plan to students and parents/guardians at the beginning of each School year. Relevant portions of the Plan will be included in the Parent and Student Handbook. The School will post the entire Plan on its website. The School will provide annual training on this Plan for all faculty and staff members. The training will include, among other things, a review of the reporting obligations for all faculty and staff and the processes that the School will follow in response to a report of bullying, cyberbullying or retaliation. The Plan, or relevant portions thereof, will be included in the faculty/staff handbook.