Title: Bullying and Cyberbullying in Schools
Adopted: February 27, 2007
Last Revised: May 18, 2021
BULLYING AND CYBERBULLYING IN SCHOOLS
Portland Public Schools (PPS) affirms our intention to create a climate of respect, inclusion, and equity for all. All students have the right to attend public schools that are safe and secure learning environments. Bullying is detrimental to the school environment and student learning as well as to achievement and well-being. It is not the Portland Board of Public Education’s (“Board”) intent to prohibit students from expressing their ideas, including ideas that may offend the sensibilities of others, or from engaging in civil debate. However, bullying interferes with the mission of the schools to educate their students and disrupts the operations of the schools.
Bullying affects not only students who are targets but also those who participate and witness such behavior. These behaviors must be addressed to ensure student safety and an inclusive learning environment. PPS will use developmentally appropriate preventative and responsive strategies that empower victims of bullying and cyberbullying, ensure school safety, and support positive behavioral change. We will emphasize training and education of all school members to prioritize the prevention and de-escalation of bullying related incidents. We will use educational interventions to resolve issues when possible, keeping the following at the forefront:
- We will focus on the safety and well-being of the targeted person/groups throughout the investigation and resolution of a report or complaint;
- When an individual’s physical or emotional safety and/or educational rights are in jeopardy, we will take swift action to stop the unsafe behaviors and address harm;
- We maintain privacy and confidentiality as required by law and school policy, and provide a non-punitive response when it serves the intent of this policy;
- We will provide support to those who experience direct and indirect harm from bullying as needed and desired by the complainant;
Students shall collectively receive developmentally appropriate instruction, including but not limited to dedicated lessons and publication in student and family handbooks about what constitutes bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation. Students and families who may need clarification or re-teaching shall receive that as well.
- “Bullying” includes, but is not limited to a written, oral or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student or students that:
- Has, or a reasonable person would expect it to have, the effect of:
- Physically harming a student or damaging a student's property; or
- Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to the student's property;
- Interferes with the rights of a student by:
- Creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment for the student; or
- Interfering with the student's academic performance or ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by a school; or
- Is based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, physical or mental disability, gender, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing characteristic, or is based on a student’s association with a person with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics, and that has the effect described in subparagraph (1) or (2) above. (This might also meet the criteria for harassment as defined in board policy ACAA: Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students.)
- Has, or a reasonable person would expect it to have, the effect of:
Examples of conduct that may constitute bullying if they meet the one of the above criteria include, but are not limited to:
- Repeated or pervasive taunting, name-calling, belittling, mocking, put-downs, or demeaning humor;
- Behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating their relationships with others, including but not limited to gossip, spreading rumors, and social exclusion;
- Non-verbal threats and/or intimidations such as use of aggressive, menacing, or disrespectful gestures;
- Threats of harm to a student, to their possessions, or to other individuals, whether transmitted verbally or in writing;
- Blackmail, extortion, demands for protection money, or involuntary loans or donations;
- Blocking access to school property or facilities that the student would otherwise have access to;
- Stealing or hiding books, backpacks, or other possessions;
- Stalking; and
- Physical contact or injury to another person or their property.
- “Cyberbullying” means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, including, but not limited to, a transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted by the use of any electronic device, including, but not limited to, a computer, telephone, cellular telephone, text messaging device and personal digital assistant.
Examples of conduct that may constitute cyberbullying include, but are not limited to
- Posting slurs or rumors or displaying any defamatory, inaccurate, disparaging, violent, abusive, profane, or sexually oriented material about a student on a website or other online application;
- Posting misleading or fake photographs or digital video footage of a student on websites or creating fake websites or social networking profiles in the guise of posing as the target;
- Impersonating or representing another student through use of that other student’s electronic device or account to send e-mail, text messages, instant messages (IM), or phone calls;
- Sending e-mail, text messages, IM, or leaving voice mail messages that are mean or threatening, or so numerous as to bombard the target’s e-mail account, IM account, or cell phone; and
- Using a camera phone or digital video camera to take and/or send embarrassing or “sexting” photographs of other students.
- “Retaliation” means an act or gesture against a student for asserting or alleging an act of bullying. “Retaliation” also includes reporting an act of bullying when it is not made in good faith.
III. Application of Policy
- A. This policy applies to any staff, student, visitor, or volunteer, all of whom have the responsibility to comply with this policy.
- B. This policy applies to bullying that:
- Takes place at school or on school grounds, meaning: a school building; property on which a school building or facility is located; and property that is owned, leased or used by a school for a school-sponsored activity, function, program, instruction or training. “School grounds” also includes school-related transportation vehicles.
- Takes place while students are being transported to or from schools or school-sponsored events;
- Takes place at any school-sponsored event, activity, function, program, instruction or training; or
- Takes place elsewhere or through the use of technology, but only if the bullying interferes with access to any school program or services or creates a hostile school environment for the complainant or victim of the conduct.
Bullying or suspected bullying is reportable in person or in writing (including anonymously) to school personnel.
- School staff, coaches and advisors for extracurricular and co-curricular activities are required to report incidents of bullying to the school principal or other school personnel designated by the superintendent.
- Students who have been bullied or are aware of incidents of bullying are strongly encouraged to report this behavior to a staff member or school administrator.
- Guardians and other adults who are aware of incidents of bullying are encouraged to report this behavior to a staff member or school administrator.
- Acts of reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports an incident of bullying are prohibited. Any student who is determined to have falsely accused another of bullying shall be subject to disciplinary consequences.
The school principal or a superintendent’s designee will:
- Promptly investigate and respond to allegations of bullying behavior;
- Where allegation of bullying has been substantiated, apply disciplinary actions, which may include but are not limited to, imposing a series of graduated consequences that include alternative discipline. In determining the appropriate response to students who engage in bullying behavior, school administrators should consider the type of behaviors, the frequency and/or pattern of behaviors, and other relevant circumstances. Alternative discipline includes, but is not limited to:
- Meeting with the student and the student's guardians;
- Reflective activities, such as requiring the student to write an essay about the student's misbehavior;
- Mediation, but only when there is mutual conflict between peers, rather than one-way negative behavior, and both parties voluntarily choose this option;
- Anger management;
- Health counseling or intervention;
- Mental health counseling;
- Participation in skills building and resolution activities, such as social-emotional cognitive skills building, resolution circles and restorative conferencing;
- Community service; and
- In-school detention or suspension, which may take place during lunchtime, after school or on weekends.
- Remediate any substantiated incident of bullying to counter the negative impact of the bullying and reduce the risk of future bullying incidents, which may include referring the victim, perpetrator or other involved persons to counseling or other appropriate services;
- Where bullying has been substantiated, communicate to the guardian of a student who has been bullied the measures being taken to ensure the safety of the student who has been bullied and to prevent further acts of bullying;
- Communicate with a local or state law enforcement agency if the superintendent or designee believes that the pursuit of criminal charges or a civil action under the Maine Civil Rights Act may be appropriate; and
- Notify guardians and students of the right to appeal a decision of a school principal or a superintendent's designee related to taking or not taking disciplinary action in accordance with this policy. The appeals procedure must be consistent with other appeals procedures established by the Board and may include an appeal to the superintendent.
Building administrators or designees shall be responsible for maintaining building-level records of all allegations and investigations of bullying and cyberbullying and to record in the district student information system all substantiated allegations and the building’s response.
VII. Assignment of Responsibility
- The Board is responsible for:
- Annually providing written versions of this policy and related procedures to students, guardians, volunteers, administrators, teachers and school staff.
- Posting this policy and related procedures on the school administrative unit's publicly accessible website.
- The Superintendent is responsible for:
- Oversight, implementation, and enforcement of this policy.
- Designating a school principal or other school personnel to administer the policies at the school level;
- Developing a procedure for publicly identifying the superintendent's designee or designees for administering the policies at the school level;
- Developing procedures to implement the requirements for reporting and responding to bullying under sections III and IV of this policy or delegating that responsibility to principals or designees.
- Ensuring that any contractor, visitor, or volunteer who engages in bullying is barred from school grounds until the superintendent is assured that the person will comply with the policies of the school board; and
- Ensuring that any organization affiliated with the school that authorizes or engages in bullying or retaliation forfeits permission for that organization to operate on school grounds or receive any other benefit of affiliation with the school;
- Providing professional development and staff training in the best practices in prevention of bullying and harassment and implementation of this policy;
- Filing the SAU policies to address bullying and cyberbullying with the Department of Education.
20-A M.R.S.A. § 1001(15), 6554
AC - Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity
ACAA-R - Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students ACAD - Hazing
ADF - School District Commitment to Learning Results JIC - Student Code of Conduct
JICC - Student Conduct on Buses
JICIA - Weapons, Violence and School Safety JK - Student Discipline
JKD - Suspension of Students JKE - Expulsion of Students
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