The Rivers School Anti-Bullying Policies
The Rivers School is committed to maintaining an atmosphere in which all members of our community are treated with respect and dignity. Bullying undermines these objectives and will not be tolerated. In addition, in certain circumstances, perpetrators of such behavior could find themselves subjected to criminal proceedings (see below).
Bullying can include, but is not limited to, remarks, rumors, threats, gestures, physical contact, the display or transmission of images, written, verbal or electronic statements, or other acts that are unwelcome or demeaning with respect to appearance, gender, race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other characteristics. Students whose statements or actions, on or off campus, constitute disrespect, mockery, intimidation, harassment, or bullying (including cyber-bullying) will be subject to disciplinary action. Additional legal definitions and consequences can be found immediately below.
Bullying is prohibited on school grounds, property immediately adjacent to school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function, or programs whether on or off school grounds. Bullying is prohibited 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 school for the victim.
Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law (signed May 3, 2010) defines bullying as:
“the repeated use by one or more students 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.”
Cyber-bullying is defined by the same statute as:
“bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communications. Cyber-bullying shall also include (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 (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying. Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying.”
* A “hostile environment” exists when conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it materially interferes with a student’s educational experience.
In addition, the law also prohibits retaliation against any person who reports bullying, who provides information during an investigation of bullying, or who witnesses or has reliable information pertaining to bullying.
Reporting Bullying or Retaliation
Any student who feels he or she or any other student has been the subject of bullying or retaliation should immediately report the matter to the Upper School Dean of Students (Jim Long) or the Middle School Dean of Students (Clinton Howarth). Student reports of bullying may be made anonymously, although no disciplinary action will be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Any faculty or staff member of our school community who has witnessed or otherwise “become aware of” any bullying or retaliation also must, by law, report it to the Upper or Middle School Dean of Students.
School Response to Allegations of Bullying or Retaliation
Once any allegation of bullying or retaliation is received, a prompt investigation of the charge will be conducted by the Upper or Middle School Dean of Students.
If the Dean of Students, with consultation of the Head of School, determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, he shall (i) notify the local law enforcement agency if he believes that criminal charges may be pursued against a perpetrator; (ii) take appropriate disciplinary action**; (iii) notify the parents or guardians of a perpetrator; (iv) notify the parents or guardians of the victim, and to the extent consistent with state and federal law, notify them of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation, (v) assess the victim’s need for protection and take appropriate steps as necessary to restore a sense of safety for the victim, and (vi) in consultation with the Upper School and Middle School Counselors or others as appropriate, refer perpetrators, victims, and appropriate family members of such students for counseling or other appropriate services.
**The disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator of bullying or retaliation include the full range of disciplinary sanctions for other forms of student misconduct, up to and including dismissal from the school. In taking disciplinary action, the Rivers School will strive to balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. No disciplinary action will be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report.
If the Dean of Students (Upper or Middle) determines that a student has knowingly made a false accusation of bullying or retaliation, the Dean will take appropriate disciplinary action.