Fayerweather Street School (FSS) has a long history of creating and maintaining an inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for all members of its community — including students, parents, faculty and staff. Due to the school’s emphasis on the social curriculum, many aspects of the anti-bullying and prevention plan required by law (603 CMR 49.00 Notification of Bullying or Retaliation) already exist in written form and are being implemented on a regular basis at FSS. In order to emphasize the fact that all aspects of the new legal requirements are already in place, Fayerweather’s plan will draw from many existing documents including the school’s mission statement and the Parent Handbook.
FSS considers teasing, bullying, cyberbullying (see next section for definitions), inappropriate language, and verbal and physical aggression that endanger students and teachers, to be unacceptable. At FSS, we believe that the school should be an emotionally and physically safe and respectful environment that supports learning for all students. The Head of School is responsible for the enforcement of this plan. Questions about this plan can be directed towards the Head of School, Kim Ridley or School Counselor, Molly O’Connor.
Fayerweather believes that the best way to address bullying and cyberbullying is to be proactive and vigilant. Fayerweather’s mission statement includes many references to valuing and creating a safe environment for students and their families socially, emotionally and physically. It should be noted that Fayerweather considers its parents as partners in this endeavor. We encourage and expect parents to be active participants in working with the school to fulfill the social aspect of the school’s mission, which can be found on the school’s website.
In order to enact the school’s mission related to creating an emotionally safe environment for children, the school uses a multipronged approach to infuse values of tolerance through all aspects of the curriculum and school environment. This approach includes an extensive Growth Education program, close relationships among teachers and students, small groups and individual check-ins with our counselor, and a small ratio of students to teachers. It also includes professional development regarding creating safe spaces and inclusive classroom environments (including the use of Responsive Classroom and Developmental Designs). We also offer parent education opportunities about developmental and social milestones. During parent education and staff presentations, the topics of bullying and cyberbullying are addressed, as well as the potential vulnerabilities of certain populations of students, and the differences and similarities between relational aggression and bullying.
One of Fayerweather’s strengths is the close relationships teachers have with students. Because of these relationships, most students feel very comfortable asking adults for help to navigate social situations that, if left unresolved, could become problematic. When these issues are brought to a teacher’s attention, the teacher contacts the parents of children involved to make sure they are aware of the situation. This is done via email, phone and, often, in person. The Head of School and counselor are also informed. Meetings with students take many forms including one-on-one sessions, small group meetings and whole class discussions.
A description of this approach was outlined extensively in the school’s recent AISNE Self-Study report for Re-accreditation in 2009. (See Section VI student Life #41 Major Standard: The school provides a safe and healthy environment for living and learning, Addendum 1.)
As used in the Bullying Prevention Plan:
Bullying: pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, §37O, means 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 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. 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 49.03: 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 49.03: 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.
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.
Aggressor: means perpetrator (student or school personnel) of bullying or retaliation as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, §37O.
Target: means a student or school personnel victim of bullying or retaliation as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, §37O.
As mentioned above, FSS makes numerous efforts to address complex social situations with all members of its community. In addressing these issues, students discuss the various ways that privilege, inequalities, and differences can impact social dynamics. Particularly in the Growth Education Program, which addresses all grades using various teaching methods, students are given the chance to explore their own privilege and their own insecurities. In this class, students explore various situations of hostility and examine the difficulty and importance of being a bystander. Students have the opportunity to share personal experiences in a safe space and brainstorm what might work best in any given situation (i.e. when to involve other students in an issue one might be having and who the trusted adults are in the situation). Next, they attempt to understand what might have led to this issue. Students also discuss how 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 one or more of these characteristics, can result in higher likelihood of bullying or harassment. Aspects of the PreK- 8 curriculum focus on multiculturalism and perceived differences, in order to encourage our students to be open-minded, accepting and also aware of the potential for these groups to be marginalized. In the Unit (seventh and eighth grade), students have the opportunity to utilize the humanities curriculum to better understand social inclusion and exclusion in their everyday lives.
Students’ Rights and Responsibilities
In addition to having a comprehensive social curriculum, Fayerweather also has written policies in the Parent Handbook, which specifically outline students’ rights and responsibilities. The Parent Handbook is posted on the school’s website.
Fayerweather also has a written policy and agreement that older students sign to address issues of cyberbullying. Every 5th grader through 8th grader must sign this agreement after reading it with their parent. The agreement is provided to each student the first week of school and is also on in the Parent Handbook. Age-appropriate aspects of this policy are also shared verbally with students in younger grades.
FSS understands the vulnerable nature of bullying situations and works hard to maintain the confidentiality of all parties involved. FSS releases information to the greater community only when necessary. FSS does not release information about aggressors or targets to parents who are not directly involved in the situation. See section entitled, “Reporting to Legal Authorities” for more information on confidentiality.
As part of the strategies outlined in the previous section, students and teachers talk about the hurtful nature of false accusations and that doing so may result in disciplinary action.
Protection from Bullying/Retaliation
As stated in other sections of this document, Fayerweather teachers and staff work continually to create a safe classroom and school-wide culture that encourages students to talk openly about social and personal issues. This is done through the Growth Education curriculum, CAPP Role Plays, during class meetings and informally, in small discussions. Because we have a community that regularly talks about and models how to treat others respectfully, if students feel they have been targeted, they feel comfortable asking an adult for help without fear of retaliation (from the aggressor). This holds true for those who report, witness, provide or have information about bullying, as well. The counselor and teachers often work together to make sure there is a plan in place for the target to feel safe in school (including, but not limited to, when and to whom to make reports, strategies for talking with friends, etc).
Faculty and staff of Fayerweather are required by law to report suspected or witnessed bullying by speaking immediately to the Head. All other members of the Fayerweather Street School community including students, parents, and guardians should also follow this same procedure. Such reporting may be done anonymously though no actions can be taken solely based on these reports. See section entitled “Confidentiality” for more information on reporting.
The most common method of protection comes in two forms – teachers alert the entire faculty and staff of the situation and ask adults to keep a close eye on those involved. This is especially true during recess. In this case, often times, an adult will remain within a few feet of the child who feels vulnerable. In addition, the child who is seen as the aggressor is instructed to play in a different area of the playground than the child who is feeling vulnerable. During this time period, parents are informed on a regular basis about the current state of affairs.
Often our counselor will be involved with checking in with both the aggressor and the target. If deemed helpful or necessary, our counselor will meet regularly with one or both parties, and/or recommend outside-of-school mental health services for long-term support.
If suspected bullying is reported, parents and students (target and aggressor) are immediately contacted and in-person meetings with the Head or Assistant Head are held to address the issues. During these meetings, each person’s sense of emotional and physical safety is assessed to determine if there is a need for protection of a particular student.
Reporting to Legal Authorities
As described previously, FSS staff and community members have many routes through which to communicate to the Head, Assistant Head or counselor about suspected bullying. Any time the Head feels that an issue presents a significant safety concern, including bullying, which breaks any laws, for any member of the community, the police are notified by the Head of School.
If bullying is suspected from a student outside of Fayerweather Street School, the principal of the other school is contacted immediately by the Head of Fayerweather. If a Fayerweather student is bullying a student outside of FSS, the school will meet with their parents and also notify the principal of the bullied student so that they can follow their own protocol.