The Madison Metropolitan School District strives to provide an environment where every student feels safe, respected and welcomed and where every staff member can serve students in an atmosphere that is free from significant disruptions and obstacles that impede learning and performance. Bullying can have a harmful social, physical, psychological and/or academic impact on students who are the victims of bullying behaviors, students who engage in bullying behaviors and bystanders that observe acts of bullying. The School District does not allow bullying behavior toward or by students, school employees or volunteers on school/District grounds, at school/District-sponsored activities or on transportation to and from school or school/District-sponsored activities.
Defining Bullying Behavior
- Bullying is the intentional action by an individual or group of individuals to inflict physical, emotional or mental harm or suffering on another individual or group of individuals when there is an imbalance of real or perceived power. Bullying behavior creates an objectively hostile or offensive environment. Such an environment may cause, or be likely to cause, negative and harmful conditions such as the examples in the list below:
- Places the individual in reasonable fear of harm to oneself or one’s property.
- Has a detrimental effect on the individual’s personal, physical, emotional or mental health.
- Has a detrimental effect on the individual’s academic performance.
- Has the effect of interfering with the individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from any curricular, extracurricular, recreational, or any other activity provided by the school.
- Creates an environment that intimidates, annoys or alarms another individual without legitimate purpose.
- Bullying behavior may be motivated by an actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic such as, but not limited to, an individual’s sex, race, national origin, ancestry, religion, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or disability.
- Bullying behavior can be physical, verbal, non-verbal, indirect or direct. Bullying can occur, for example, in situations involving personal contact, and also electronically, in writing, or by using other persons as intermediaries. Bullying often, but not always, involves repeated behavior. Examples of bullying behavior include but are not limited to the following:
- Hitting, pushing, kicking and other acts that physically hurt another person
- Spreading negative rumors about or falsely accusing another person
- Excluding someone from a "group"
- Threatening another person
- Manipulating friendships
- Posting or sending mean-spirited messages about someone using phones, electronic mail, websites, blogs, etc. (also known as cyber-bullying)
- Organizing others to threaten, tease, or exclude a targeted individual
- “Electronic” (or “electronically”) is defined as any communication involving the transmission of information by wire, radio, optical cable, electromagnetic or other similar means. “Electronic” includes but is not limited to communication via electronic mail, internet-based communications, pager service, cell phones and text messaging.
- “Personal Contact” is defined as an encounter in which two or more people are in visual or physical proximity to each other and is not limited to physical contact.
- “Volunteer” is defined as anyone who has regular, significant contact with students in the school setting or during school related activities.
Prohibiting Bullying Behavior
Bullying is prohibited on all school and District grounds and in all school and District buildings; at all school and District-sponsored activities; and on all vehicles used for transportation to and from school and school-sponsored/District-sponsored activities. It is the intent of this Policy that bullying behavior is prohibited in all educational environments, regardless of whether the facility/location is owned, leased, or otherwise used or provided by the School District. Educational environments include, but are not limited to, every activity under school supervision. Students who engage in bullying behavior in violation of this Policy or in retaliation against an individual for reporting bullying behavior shall be subject to school disciplinary measures consistent with MMSD policies and procedures up to and including suspension and/or expulsion.
Reporting Bullying Behavior
The prohibition against bullying and the MMSD “Report of Bullying Incident” form shall be included in student handbooks, employee orientation or training materials/handbooks, and District and school websites.
Reporting by Staff and School Officials
Staff or other school officials shall submit a report of bullying under this paragraph any time
- a student or parent/guardian presents the staff member/official with a report clearly identified as a report of bullying under this Policy;
- the staff member/official has knowledge of repeated behavior or any pattern of behavior by an individual (or group of persons) that is prohibited by this Policy (i.e., premised on an imbalance of real or perceived power and intended to inflict physical, emotional or mental harm or suffering (including fear or intimidation) on another person);
- the staff member concludes that a student is being subjected to behavior that is physically, emotionally or mentally harming the student and is prohibited by this Policy.
Unless impractical, reports made under this paragraph shall be in writing and should generally be provided on the same day the bullying behavior was observed or that the staff member/official becomes aware of the bullying behavior. For all school-based personnel, the report required by this paragraph should be provided directly to the school’s Principal or an Assistant Principal assigned to the school unless the Principal has expressly identified another staff member to also be a recipient of such reports. For staff and officials not based in a school, such reports should be provided to a building Principal when the incident is tied to a particular school or to the head administrator in the staff member’s/official’s Department. Written reports are preferred, but if it is necessary to make a verbal report, the individual making the report should be clear that he/she is reporting bullying behavior under this Policy. It is understood that the reporting required by this paragraph requires a degree of judgment, and that there will be instances where a reasonable person holding a given position may, or may not, recognize a specific situation as involving behaviors prohibited by this Policy. However, it is the intent of this paragraph that no staff member/official may, by failing to submit a report, exhibit deliberate indifference to harm created by bullying behaviors of which they have knowledge.
Reporting by Students, Parents/Guardians, and Other Persons
Students, parents or guardians, and other persons are encouraged to make a verbal or written report regarding conduct they consider to be bullying. Written reports may be made on the form entitled “Report of Bullying Incident” and turned into any teacher, Student Services staff, or administrator. Verbal reports of bullying under this Policy should be clearly identified as reports of bullying under this Policy and presented to a school-based administrator (such as a Principal or Assistant Principal), an Assistant Superintendent, or the head of any MMSD Department. The individual receiving a verbal report shall promptly document the complaint on the “Report of Bullying Incident” form. The written report shall be forwarded to the designated school administrator for investigation of the complaint.
Confidentiality of Reports of Bullying
A person making a report of bullying behavior may request that his/her identity remain confidential. While the District cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality in all circumstances, such as in a case where disclosure is necessary to alleviate a health or safety emergency, it is the District’s policy to adhere to such a request to the extent possible. The District will notify the individual if the District determines that it is not possible to proceed on a confidential basis. In addition, the District will maintain the confidentiality of the report and any related pupil records in a manner consistent with applicable law.
If a victim/target of bullying behavior requests that his/her identity not be disclosed in connection with any investigation of the alleged bullying behavior, the Principal and/or other assigned administrator/investigator shall discuss with the student and his/her parent/guardian how such a request may affect the District’s ability to investigate and/or resolve a given situation.
Anonymous reports of bullying will be reviewed and reasonable action shall be taken to address such reports, consistent with the reliability of available information and taking into account the due process rights of the individual alleged to have committed the acts of bullying.
Investigating Bullying Behavior
Under the direction of a school administrator, all reports of bullying under this Policy shall be investigated and a written report of the investigation shall be prepared. Investigations shall begin promptly and should generally begin by contacting the identified victim(s)/target(s) of the bullying. The report of the investigation shall identify key facts about the incident, state a determination as to whether acts of bullying were verified, and identify recommendations for intervention, including disciplinary action if appropriate. In addition, the report shall identify steps taken to assist the target/s of the bullying.
Parents and/or guardians of each student involved in the bullying incident shall be notified prior to the conclusion of the investigation.
When acts of bullying are verified, the administrator investigating the incident shall implement the appropriate interventions as outlined in the MMSD Student Code of Conduct and document them in Infinite Campus.
Intervening with Students Who Engage in Bullying Behavior
Schools must create a culture in which bullying is not tolerated. Students must be supported and encouraged to report harassment and bullying and to assist peers who are bullied. Victims of bullying must be provided with tools to empower them to overcome the negative effects of bullying. Students who engage in bullying behavior must be held accountable for their actions and steps to achieve this include:
- teaching new skills for communication and empathy
- communicating with parents/families
- providing appropriate, incremental consequences and interventions.
The following steps provide a process that shall be used by the Principal or designee to intervene with the student who engages in bullying behavior as well as the student who is the target of bullying behavior:
- Meet with student who engaged in bullying behavior
- Determine the underlying cause of behavior, if possible
- Warn the student of the consequences if bullying behavior continues
- Notify the student who engaged in bullying behavior that retaliation is prohibited and will lead to further consequences/interventions
- Outline plan for teaching positive communication and empathy-building skills
- Notify parent/family and teachers of student who engaged in bullying
- Support student who was target of bullying by explaining reporting practices, creating a safety plan as appropriate and identifying staff who can provide assistance as needed
- Notify parent/family and teachers of student who was target of bullying behavior and discuss interventions to protect targeted student
- Document the incident and appropriate Code of Conduct violation as well as the resolution in Infinite Campus
- Follow up in a timely manner with student who engaged in bullying behavior to assess progress
- Follow up in a timely manner with student who was target of bullying behavior to ensure no new incidents of bullying have occurred
- Implement school disciplinary measures consistent with MMSD policies and procedures up to and including suspension and/or expulsion when incidents of bullying are repeated and student does not respond to interventions.