Massachusetts School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Bullying, Harassment, or Hazing

Discipline Compendium

Massachusetts School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Bullying, Harassment, or Hazing

Category: Discipline Addressing Specific Code of Conduct Violations
Subcategory: Bullying, Harassment, or Hazing
State: Massachusetts

The state or jurisdiction(s) you selected for this subcategory are shown below, followed by the laws and regulations. To add or change states, use the Back button and resubmit your search request.

To view a state profile showing school discipline laws and regulations in all subcategories for a given state, click on the state name.

LAWS

ALM GL ch. 3, § 67. Commission on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth; membership; terms; powers and duties.

(c) The commission shall investigate the use of resources from both the public and private sectors to enhance and improve the ability of state agencies to provide services to gay and lesbian youth. In furtherance of that responsibility, the commission shall: (1) work in partnership with the department of education and the department of public health to create school-based and community-based programs focusing on suicide prevention, violence intervention, and the promotion of zero-tolerance policies regarding harassment and discrimination against gay and lesbian youth; and (2) make recommendations about policies and programs supporting gay and lesbian youth on an ongoing basis to the department of education, the department of public health and the executive office of health and human services. The commission shall annually, on or before June 2, report the results of its findings and activities of the preceding year and make recommendations relating to the concerns of gay and lesbian youth to the governor and to the clerks of the senate and house of representatives.

ALM GL ch. 69, § 1D. Statewide educational goals; academic standards; vocational training; grant program.

The board shall establish a set of statewide educational goals for all public elementary and secondary schools in the commonwealth. [...]

The standards shall provide for instruction in at least the major principles of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. They shall be designed to inculcate respect for the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of the commonwealth and for the contributions made by diverse cultural, ethnic and racial groups to the life of the commonwealth. The standards may provide for instruction in the fundamentals of the history of the commonwealth as well as the history of working people and the labor movement in the United States. The standards shall provide for instruction in the issues of nutrition and exercise. The standards may provide for instruction in the issues of physical education, human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome education, violence prevention, including teen dating violence, bullying prevention, conflict resolution and drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention. The board may also include the teaching of family life skills, financial literacy and consumer skills, and basic career exploration and employability skills. The board may also include in the standards a fundamental knowledge of technology education and computer science and keyboarding skills; the major principles of environmental science and environmental protection; and an awareness of global education and geography. The board may set standards for student community service-learning activities and programs. The board may also institute a process for drawing up additional standards in other areas of education.

ALM GL ch. 69, § 1O. Truancy prevention program certification process.

The department of elementary and secondary education shall adopt regulations establishing a truancy prevention program certification process, consistent with the behavioral health and public schools framework developed pursuant to section 19 of chapter 321 of the acts of 2008, and shall require that the truancy prevention program evaluate the level of out-of-school support for students and families and address conditions that make students more likely to become truant including, but not limited to, previously unidentified or inadequately addressed special needs, bullying and harassment. Any truancy prevention program established under this section by a school district shall meet the requirements for certification adopted by the department.

ALM GL ch. 71, § 37H. Policies relative to conduct of teachers or students; student handbooks.

The superintendent of every school district shall publish the district's policies pertaining to the conduct of teachers and students. Said policies shall prohibit the use of any tobacco products within the school buildings, the school facilities or on the school grounds or on school buses by any individual, including school personnel. Said policies shall further restrict operators of school buses and personal motor vehicles, including students, faculty, staff and visitors, from idling such vehicles on school grounds, consistent with section 16B of chapter 90 and regulations adopted pursuant thereto and by the department. The policies shall also prohibit bullying as defined in section 37O and shall include the student-related sections of the bullying prevention and intervention plan required by said section 37O. Copies of these policies shall be provided to any person upon request and without cost by the principal of every school within the district. [...]

In each school building containing the grades nine to twelve, inclusive, the principal, in consultation with the school council, shall prepare and distribute to each student a student handbook setting forth the rules pertaining to the conduct of students. The student handbook shall include an age-appropriate summary of the student-related sections of the bullying prevention and intervention plan required by section 37O. The school council shall review the student handbook each spring to consider changes in disciplinary policy to take effect in September of the following school year, but may consider policy changes at any time. The annual review shall cover all areas of student conduct, including but not limited to those outlined in this section.

ALM GL ch. 71, § 37O. School bullying prohibited; bullying prevention and intervention plans; reporting of bullying incident data.

(a) As used in this section the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meaning:-

"Approved private day or residential school", a school that accepts, through agreement with a school committee, a child requiring special education pursuant to section 10 of chapter 71B.

"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.

"Charter school", commonwealth charter schools and Horace Mann charter schools established pursuant to section 89 of chapter 71.

"Cyber-bullying", 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.

"Collaborative school", a school operated by an educational collaborative established pursuant to section 4E of chapter 40.

"Department", the department of elementary and secondary education.

"Hostile environment", a situation in which bullying causes the school environment to be permeated with intimidation, ridicule or insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the student's education.

"Plan", a bullying prevention and intervention plan established pursuant to subsection (d).

"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.

"School district", the school department of a city or town, a regional school district or a county agricultural school.

"School grounds", property on which a school building or facility is located or property that is owned, leased or used by a school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school, or collaborative school for a school-sponsored activity, function, program, instruction or training.

"Victim", a student against whom bullying or retaliation has been perpetrated.

(b) Bullying shall be prohibited: (i) on school grounds, property immediately adjacent to school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program whether on or off school grounds, at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by a school district or school, or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by a school district or school and (ii) 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 a school district or school, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the victim, infringes on the rights of the victim at school or materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Nothing contained herein shall require schools to staff any non-school related activities, functions, or programs.

Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying shall be prohibited.

(c) Each school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall provide age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention in each grade that is incorporated into the curriculum of the school district or school. The curriculum shall be evidence-based.

(d)(1) 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 a school staff, including, but not limited to, educators, administrators, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to an extracurricular activity and paraprofessionals. The consultation shall include, but not be limited to, notice and a public comment period; provided, however, that a non-public school shall only be required to give notice to and provide a comment period for families that have a child attending the school. The plan shall be updated at least biennially.

(2) Each plan shall include, but not be limited to: (i) descriptions of and statements prohibiting bullying, cyber-bullying and retaliation, including procedures for collecting, maintaining and reporting bullying incident data required under subsection (k); (ii) clear procedures for students, staff, parents, guardians and others to report bullying or retaliation; (iii) a provision that reports of bullying or retaliation may be made anonymously; provided, however, that no disciplinary action shall be taken against a student solely on the basis of an anonymous report; (iv) clear procedures for promptly responding to and investigating reports of bullying or retaliation; (v) the range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator for bullying or retaliation; provided, however, that the disciplinary actions shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior; (vi) clear procedures for restoring a sense of safety for a victim and assessing that victim's needs for protection; (vii) strategies for protecting from bullying or retaliation a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying or witnesses or has reliable information about an act of bullying; (viii) procedures consistent with state and federal law for promptly notifying the parents or guardians of a victim and a perpetrator; provided, that the parents or guardians of a victim shall also be notified of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation; and provided, further, that the procedures shall provide for immediate notification pursuant to regulations promulgated under this subsection by the principal or person who holds a comparable role to the local law enforcement agency when criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator; (ix) a provision that a student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action; and (x) a strategy for providing counseling or referral to appropriate services for perpetrators and victims and for appropriate family members of said students. The plan shall afford all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law.

(3) Each plan shall recognize that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have 1 or more of these characteristics. The plan shall include the specific steps that each school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall take to support vulnerable students and to provide all students with the skills, knowledge and strategies needed to prevent or respond to bullying or harassment. A school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school may establish separate discrimination or harassment policies that include additional categories of students. Nothing in this section shall alter the obligations of a school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school to remediate any discrimination or harassment based on a person's membership in a legally protected category under local, state or federal law.

(4) The plan for a school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall include a provision for ongoing professional development to build the skills of all staff members, including, but not limited to, educators, administrators, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities and paraprofessionals, to prevent, identify and respond to bullying. The content of such professional development shall include, but not be limited to: (i) developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying incidents; (ii) developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents; (iii) information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among a perpetrator, victim and witnesses to the bullying; (iv) research findings on bullying, including information about students who have been shown to be particularly at risk for bullying in the school environment; (v) information on the incidence and nature of cyber-bullying; and (vi) internet safety issues as they relate to cyber-bullying. The department shall identify and offer information on alternative methods for fulfilling the professional development requirements of this section, at least 1 of these alternative methods shall be available at no cost to school districts, charter schools, approved private day or residential schools and collaborative schools.

(5) The plan shall include provisions for informing parents and guardians about the bullying prevention curriculum of the school district or school and shall include, but not be limited to: (i) how parents and guardians can reinforce the curriculum at home and support the school district or school plan; (ii) the dynamics of bullying; and (iii) online safety and cyber-bullying.

(6) The department shall promulgate rules and regulations on the requirements related to a principal's duties under clause (viii) of the second paragraph of this subsection; provided, however, that school districts, charter schools, approved private day or residential schools and collaborative schools shall be subject to the regulations. A non-public school shall develop procedures for immediate notification by the principal or person who holds a comparable role to the local law enforcement agency when criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator.

(e)(1) Each school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall provide to students and parents or guardians, in age-appropriate terms and in the languages which are most prevalent among the students, parents or guardians, annual written notice of the relevant student-related sections of the plan.

(2) Each school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall provide to all school staff annual written notice of the plan. The faculty and staff at each school shall be trained annually on the plan applicable to the school. Relevant sections of the plan relating to the duties of faculty and staff shall be included in a school district or school employee handbook.

(3) The plan shall be posted on the website of each school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school.

(f) Each school principal or the person who holds a comparable position shall be responsible for the implementation and oversight of the plan at his school.

(g) 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, shall immediately report any instance of bullying or retaliation the staff member has witnessed or become aware of to the principal or to the school official identified in the plan as responsible for receiving such reports or both. Upon receipt of such a report, the school principal or a designee shall promptly conduct an investigation. If the school principal or a designee determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the school principal or designee shall (i) notify the local law enforcement agency if the school principal or designee 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; and (v) inform the parents or guardians of the victim about the department's problem resolution system and the process for seeking assistance or filing a claim through the problem resolution system.

(h) If an incident of bullying or retaliation involves students from more than one school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school, the school district or school first informed of the bullying or retaliation shall, consistent with state and federal law, promptly notify the appropriate administrator of the other school district or school so that both may take appropriate action. If an incident of bullying or retaliation occurs on school grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled in a local school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school, the school district or school informed of the bullying or retaliation shall contact law enforcement consistent with the provisions of clause (viii) of the second paragraph of subsection (d).

(i) Nothing in this section shall supersede or replace existing rights or remedies under any other general or special law, nor shall this section create a private right of action.

(j) The department, after consultation with the department of public health, the department of mental health, the attorney general, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association and experts on bullying shall: (i) publish a model plan for school districts and schools to consider when creating their plans; and (ii) compile a list of bullying prevention and intervention resources, evidence-based curricula, best practices and academic-based research that shall be made available to schools. The model plan shall be consistent with the behavioral health and public schools framework developed by the department in accordance with section 19 of chapter 321 of the acts of 2008. The resources may include, but shall not be limited to, print, audio, video or digital media; subscription based online services; and on-site or technology-enabled professional development and training sessions. The department shall biennially update the model plan and the list of the resources, curricula, best practices and research and shall post them on its website.

(k) Each school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall annually report bullying incident data to the department. The data shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the number of reported allegations of bullying or retaliation; (ii) the number and nature of substantiated incidents of bullying or retaliation; (iii) the number of students disciplined for engaging in bullying or retaliation; and (iv) any other information required by the department. Said incident data shall be reported in the form and manner established by the department, in consultation with the attorney general; provided, that the department shall minimize the costs and resources needed to comply with said reporting requirements; and provided further, that the department may use existing data collection and reporting mechanisms to collect the information from school districts. The department shall analyze the bullying incident data and shall publish an annual report containing aggregate statewide information on the frequency and nature of bullying in schools. The department shall file the annual report with the attorney general and with the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives who shall forward the same to the chairs of the joint committee on education, the joint committee on the judiciary and the house and senate committees on ways and means.

(l) The department shall develop a student survey to assess school climate and the prevalence, nature and severity of bullying in schools. The survey shall be administered by each school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school at least once every 4 years. The survey shall be designed to protect student privacy and allow for anonymous participation by students.

The school official identified in the plan as responsible for receiving reports of bullying or retaliation shall verify the completion of the student surveys. All completed surveys shall be forwarded to the department. The department shall use the survey results to help assess the effectiveness of bullying prevention curricula and instruction developed and administered under subsection (c). The department shall collect and analyze the student survey data in order to: compare the survey results with the bullying incident data reported under subsection (k); identify long-term trends and areas of improvement; and monitor bullying prevention efforts in schools over time. The department shall make its findings available to the school official.

(m) Each school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school may adopt an anti-bullying seal to represent the district or school's commitment to bullying prevention and intervention.

(n) The department may investigate certain alleged incidents of bullying. If, upon completion of investigation by the department, a school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school is found to not have properly implemented its prevention plan as outlined in subsection (d), the department may require that school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school to properly implement the plan or take other actions to address the findings of the investigation.

ALM GL ch. 269, § 17. Hazing; organizing or participating; hazing defined.

Whoever is a principal organizer or participant in the crime of hazing, as defined herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.

The term "hazing" as used in this section and in sections eighteen and nineteen, shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which wilfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section to the contrary, consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action.

ALM GL ch. 269, § 18. Failure to report hazing.

Whoever knows that another person is the victim of hazing as defined in section seventeen and is at the scene of such crime shall, to the extent that such person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, report such crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable. Whoever fails to report such crime shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.

ALM GL ch. 269, § 19. Copy of Secs. 17 to 19; issuance to students and student groups, teams and organizations; report.

Each institution of secondary education and each public or private institution of post secondary education shall file, at least annually, a report with the board of higher education and in the case of secondary institutions, the board of education, certifying that such institution has complied with its responsibility to inform student groups, teams or organizations and to notify each full time student enrolled by it of the provisions of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen and also certifying that said institution has adopted a disciplinary policy with regard to the organizers and participants of hazing, and that such policy has been set forth with appropriate emphasis in the student handbook or similar means of communicating the institution's policies to its students. The board of higher education and, in the case of secondary institutions, the board of education shall promulgate regulations governing the content and frequency of such reports, and shall forthwith report to the attorney general any such institution which fails to make such report.

REGULATIONS

603 CMR 26.07. Active efforts.

(2) All public schools shall strive to prevent harassment or discrimination based upon students' race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation, and all public schools shall respond promptly to such discrimination or harassment when they have knowledge of its occurrence.

(3) The school committee and the superintendent shall provide in-service training for all school personnel at least annually regarding the prevention of discrimination and harassment based upon race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin and sexual orientation, and the appropriate methods for responding to such discrimination and harassment in a school setting.

603 CMR 26.08. Notification and complaint procedure.

(1) The superintendent shall be responsible for ensuring that all school handbooks and codes of conduct reference M.G.L. c. 76, § 5 and affirmatively state and explain the school's obligations under M.G.L. c. 76, § 5. In order to ensure that such obligations are fulfilled, all school handbooks and codes of conduct shall also contain the following:

(a) A nondiscrimination policy that is consistent with M.G.L. c. 76, § 5 and affirms the school's non-tolerance for harassment or discrimination, including that based upon race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation; and

(b) The school's procedure for accepting, investigating and resolving complaints alleging discrimination or harassment; and

(c) The disciplinary measures that the school may impose if it determines that harassment or discrimination has occurred.

603 CMR 33.01. Authority.

603 CMR 33.00 is promulgated by the Board of Education pursuant to M.G.L. c. 269, § 19.

603 CMR 33.02. Scope and purpose.

603 CMR 33.00 governs the content and frequency of reports secondary schools must file with the Board of Education regarding the distribution of copies of the law against hazing and the adoption of a disciplinary policy concerning the organizers of and participants in hazing activities.

603 CMR 33.03. Definitions.

Hazing shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.

603 CMR 33.04. Filing of reports.

(1) On or before October 1 of each year, the principal or headmaster of every secondary school shall file a report as required by M.G.L. c. 269, § 19 with the Bureau of Student Services.

(2) Such reports as required by 603 CMR 33.04(1) shall include the following certifications:

(a) that the school has issued a copy of M.G.L. c. 269, §§ 17 through 19 to every group or organization under its authority and to every member, plebe, pledgee or applicant for membership in such group or organization;

(b) that the school has issued a copy of M.G.L. c. 269, §§ 17 through 19, to every non-school affiliated organization;

(c) that the school has obtained an acknowledgment of receipt from an officer of every group or organization under its authority, and every individual which has received a copy of M.G.L. c. 269, §§ 17 through 19;

(d) that the school has obtained an acknowledgment from a contact person for each non-school affiliated organization that such organization has distributed a copy of M.G.L. c. 269, §§ 17 through 19, to every member, plebe, pledgee or applicant for membership in such group or organization;

(e) that the school has adopted a disciplinary policy with regard to the organizers of and participants in hazing which has been approved by the school committee, is available to anyone upon request and has been filed with the Bureau of Student Services as required by M.G.L. c. 71, § 37H.

603 CMR 33.05. Notifying the Attorney General.

(1) On November 1 of each year, the Commissioner of Education shall notify the Attorney General of any failure by a secondary school to file a report as required by M.G.L. c. 269, § 19.

603 CMR 49.01. Scope and purpose.

603 CMR 49.00 governs the requirements related to the duty of the principal or leader of a public school, approved private day or residential school, collaborative school, or charter school to notify the parents or guardians of a target and an aggressor (when the aggressor is a student) when there is an incident of bullying or retaliation, and to notify the local law enforcement agency when criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor. 603 CMR 49.00 also address confidentiality of student record information related to notification of bullying and retaliation.

603 CMR 49.02. Definitions and terms.

Aggressor means perpetrator of bullying or retaliation as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O.

Approved Private Day or Residential School means a school that accepts, through agreement with a school committee, a student requiring special education pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71B, § 10 and 603 CMR 28.09.

Bullying, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, means 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 target that:

(a) causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage to the target's property;

(b) places the target in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself or damage to his or her property;

(c) creates a hostile environment at school for the target;

(d) infringes on the rights of the target at school; or

(e) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Bullying shall include cyberbullying.

Charter School, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, means a Commonwealth charter school or Horace Mann charter school established pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 89.

Collaborative School, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, means a school operated by an educational collaborative established pursuant to M.G.L. c. 40, § 4E.

Cyberbullying, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but 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. Cyberbullying shall also include:

(a) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person; or

(b) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions in 603 CMR 49.02: Bullying(a) through (e). Cyberbullying 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 in 603 CMR 49.02: Bullying(a) through (e).

Hostile Environment, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, means a situation in which bullying causes the school environment to be permeated with intimidation, ridicule or insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the student's education.

Local Law Enforcement Agency means a local police department.

Local Plan means the bullying prevention and intervention plan required to be developed under M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O.

Parent means a student's father or mother, or guardian.

Principal means the administrative leader of a public school, charter school, collaborative school, or approved private day or residential school, or his or her designee for the purposes of implementing the school's bullying prevention and intervention plan.

Retaliation means any form of intimidation, reprisal or harassment directed against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation about bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying.

School means an approved private day or residential school, collaborative school, or charter school.

School District, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O, means the school department of a city or town, a regional school district or a county agricultural school.

Student Record has the meaning set forth in the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations, 603 CMR 23.02.

Target means a student victim of bullying or retaliation as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O.

603 CMR 49.03. Bullying and retaliation prohibited.

(1) Bullying of a student is prohibited as provided in M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O. Retaliation is also prohibited.

(2) Bullying shall be prohibited on school grounds, property immediately adjacent to school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program whether on or off school grounds, at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by a school district or school, or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by a school district or school. Bullying 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 a school district or school, shall be prohibited if the bullying:

(a) creates a hostile environment at school for the target;

(b) infringes on the rights of the target at school; or

(c) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

(3) Each school district and school shall have procedures for receiving reports of bullying or retaliation; promptly responding to and investigating such reports, and determining whether bullying or retaliation has occurred; responding to incidents of bullying or retaliation; and reporting to parents and law enforcement as set forth in 603 CMR 49.04 and 49.05.

603 CMR 49.04. Notice to parents.

(1) Upon investigation and determination that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal shall promptly notify the parents of the target and the aggressor (when the aggressor is a student) of the determination and the school district or school's procedures for responding to the bullying or retaliation. The principal shall inform the target's parent of actions that school officials will take to prevent further acts of bullying or retaliation. Nothing in 603 CMR 49.04(1) prohibits the principal from contacting a parent of a target or aggressor (when the aggressor is a student) about a report of bullying or retaliation prior to a determination that bullying or retaliation has occurred.

(2) Notice required by 603 CMR 49.04 shall be provided in the primary language of the home.

(3) Each school district and school shall include the requirements and procedures for communicating with the parents of the aggressor (when the aggressor is a student) and target of bullying or retaliation in the local plan.

(4) A principal's notification to a parent about an incident or a report of bullying or retaliation must comply with confidentiality requirements of the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations, 603 CMR 23.00, and the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations, 34 CFR Part 99, as set forth in 603 CMR 49.06.

603 CMR 49.05. Notice to law enforcement agency.

(1) Before the first day of each school year, the superintendent or designee of a school district and the school leader or designee of an approved private day or residential school, collaborative school, or charter school shall communicate with the chief of police or designee of the local police department about the implementation of 603 CMR 49.05. Such communication may include agreeing on a method for notification, a process for informal communication, updates of prior written agreements, or any other subject appropriate to the implementation of 603 CMR 49.05.

(2) At any point after receipt of a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, the principal shall notify the local law enforcement agency if the principal has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor. Notice shall be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and established agreements with the local law enforcement agency. The principal shall document the reasons for his or her decision to notify law enforcement. Nothing in 603 CMR 49.05 shall be interpreted to require reporting to a law enforcement agency in situations in which bullying and retaliation can be handled appropriately within the school district or school.

(a) In making the determination whether notification to law enforcement is appropriate, the principal may consult with the school resource officer and any other individuals the principal deems appropriate.

(b) Nothing in 603 CMR 49.05 shall prevent the principal from taking appropriate disciplinary or other action pursuant to school district or school policy and state law, provided that disciplinary actions balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.

(c) The principal shall respond to the incident as set forth in relevant provisions of the local plan consistent with 603 CMR 49.05.

(3) If an incident of bullying or retaliation occurs on school grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled in the school district or school, the principal of the school informed of the bullying or retaliation shall notify the local law enforcement agency if the principal has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.

(4) Each school district and school shall include the requirements and procedures for communicating with the local law enforcement agency in the local plan.

603 CMR 49.06. Confidentiality of records.

(1) A principal may not disclose information from a student record of a target or aggressor to a parent unless the information is about the parent's own child.

(2) A principal may disclose a determination of bullying or retaliation to a local law enforcement agency under 603 CMR 49.05 without the consent of a student or his or her parent. The principal shall communicate with law enforcement officials in a manner that protects the privacy of targets, student witnesses, and aggressors to the extent practicable under the circumstances.

(3) A principal may disclose student record information about a target or aggressor to appropriate parties in addition to law enforcement in connection with a health or safety emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals as provided in 603 CMR 23.07(4)(e) and 34 CFR 99.31(a)(10) and 99.36. 603 CMR 49.06(3) is limited to instances in which the principal has determined there is an immediate and significant threat to the health or safety of the student or other individuals. It is limited to the period of emergency and does not allow for blanket disclosure of student record information. The principal must document the disclosures and the reasons that the principal determined that a health or safety emergency exists.

American Institutes for Research

U.S. Department of Education

The contents of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments Web site were assembled under contracts from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Contract Number  91990021A0020.

This Web site is operated and maintained by AIR. The contents of this Web site do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education nor do they imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education.

©2024 American Institutes for Research — Disclaimer   |   Privacy Policy   |   Accessibility Statement