A bullying prevention and intervention plan outlined by the Sandwich Public Schools seeks to define exactly what constitutes a bullying event as well as how those incidents will be addressed.
The plan was presented by student services director Bernard McNamara at the school committee’s meeting on June 15. Next year’s school handbooks have been updated to reflect what is outlined in the plan.
In the plan, definitions have been given to a number of negative interactions including bullying, cyberbullying, retaliation and hostile environment. It also spells out that an aggressor in a school situation could be a student, but it could also be a staff member.
Having a uniform definition of bullying is key to the plan, since the term has been used to encompass interactions that are not positive, but may be singular instances of disrespect or meanness.
In order to be considered bullying, the aggressor is responsible for repeatedly causing intentional harm to a target through written, physical, verbal or electronic means. Repeated bullying actions cause physical or emotional harm to the target, cause the target to fear for his or her physical wellbeing or the safety of the target’s property, create a hostile environment for the target, and create a substantial disruption in terms of school operations.
This definition is supported by state law.
Cyberbullying specifically refers to bullying behaviors perpetrated using technology such as through social media, text messaging, email and phone calls.
In addition to providing definitions around bullying, the plan provides pathways for students, parents and staff to report instances of bullying.
A student support team has been identified in every school. The teams consist of the building principal, assistant principals, school psychologist, social workers, guidance counselors, school nurses and other support personnel.
School staff, as mandated reporters, are required to report any incidents of bullying to the building principal. Parents and students can report incidents directly or anonymously.
To facilitate anonymous reporting, a Google Form has been created for each school to provide a convenient way to alert building staff to any issues.
The document also lays out the ways in which bullying instances will be addressed, which could mean creating teaching moments to encourage a change in behavior as well as disciplinary actions.
Mr. McNamara said that training on bullying will be done with school staff.