*UPDATE* September 30, 2013
DESE has published an updated Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (BPIP) that incorporates the legislature's recent amendments to the Bullying Prevention Law. School districts are encouraged to review the updated Model BPIP and consult with local counsel as they consider updating their own BPIPs. Click here to access the updated Model BPIP from DESE.
August 18, 2013
As part of the fiscal year 2014 budget recently signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick, the legislature has amended M.G.L. c. 71, sec. 37O (the Bullying Prevention Law) to extend the protections it affords students to include bullying by school staff.
The Bullying Prevention Law, as originally constructed, applied only to student-on-student bullying conduct. With these new amendments, however, staff-on-student bullying is also prohibited. Specifically, the law changes the definition of "bullying" to read:
"Bullying: the repeated use by one or more students or by a member of a school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim's property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying."
It changes the definition of "perpetrator" to read:
"Perpetrator: A student or a member of a school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional, who engages in bullying or retaliation."
The law revises subsection (d) referring to the bullying prevention and intervention plan to read:
"Each school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall develop, adhere to and update a plan to address bullying prevention and intervention in consultation with teachers, school staff, professional support personnel, school volunteers, administrators, community representatives, local law enforcement agencies, students parents and guardians. The plan shall apply to students and members of the school staff, including but not limited to educators, administrators, school nurses."
In light of this development, school districts should consider the following actions to address these changes in the law:
1. Revise/ update current anti-bullying policies and handbook policies/ statements;
2. Review and update the district's bullying prevention and intervention plan;
3. Provide written notice of the change in law and impending change in policy to all collective bargaining units;
4. Advise staff of these changes in any upcoming meetings, workshops or orientations planned for staff.
School administrators are advised to contact their local counsel for further advice and consultation as needed.