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Information for Staff
Every day, students in our schools are targets of, perpretators of, or witnesses to BULLYING. In order to combat bullying in our community, we need to work together to create an environment where bullying is not tolerated. Our schools should not only demonstrate our core values of academic excellence and innovation, but also reflect respect and reponsibility. As President Obama himself declared in October, 2010, "We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment."
Simply put: bullying has a negative effect on school climate. Students who are intimidated and fearful cannot give their education the single-minded attention they need for success. Bullying and intimidation for any reason are prohibited in the Newton Public Schools. Creating a school culture free of bullying demands that all individuals recognize such behaviors and take action to stop them. Their prevention begins with a strong educational program; the establishment of a positive, caring school environment; and a solid school-home partnership. We are ALL part of the safety net. Every student, parent, and staff member has the potential and the responsibility to affect the school culture positively so that all students can thrive.
Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law and the Newton Public Schools
Massachusetts passed a law in May, 2010, which mandates every school system to implement a Bullying Prevention and Intervention plan.
The Fiscal Year 2014 budget, adopted in June by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick, included amendments to the Massachusetts anti-bullying law (M.G.L. chapter 71, section 37O). Those amendments extend protections to students who are bullied by a member of the school staff, who are defined to include but are not limited to an "educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional." The amendments are available online at School Bullying School Staff Clarification; School Bullying Staff Clarification; and Expansion of School Staff in School Bullying Law.
The Newton School Committee approved our policies and procedures addressing bullying prevention and intervention during the 2010-2011 school year. This goal of this website, created for benefit of the entire Newton community, is to serve as an introduction and guide to policies the Newton Public Schools has in place, as well as to raise awareness of bullying, bullying prevention, and related topics. Please explore not only this section dedicated to Staff, but also the Parent and Student sections as well.
Though the new law means staff and faculty are now required to report bullying, it is important to remember that your job as a teacher hasn't really changed - NPS staff and faculty have always been aware of the important role that social and emotional well being play in student learning. We hope you find this website helpful and welcome your feedback on how to improve it.
On December 16, 2010 all faculty and staff in all school buildings participated in a two-hour training with Dr. Elizabeth Englander of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC).
Some highlights form Dr. Englander's December training in Newton and a recent article she co-authored, which appeared in eSchoolNews.com, are excerpted below.
- Keep “responding” and “reporting” separate in your mind. How should you respond when you see inappropriate (possibly bullying or definitely bullying) behaviors?
- Focus on the small stuff. It’s useful to understand the difference between “gateway” behaviors and blatant bullying. Gateway behaviors facilitate or reinforce bullying—they make disrespect seem normal (which facilitates bullying) or even rewarded (like laughing along with a bully).
- The cyber stuff: Approach and coach. Although kids are comfortable with technology, they are not necessarily knowledgeable about it—don’t confuse the two.
- Talk to kids about how to handle things when they get mad at each other. Kids today often vent electronically when they’re mad, instead of trying to resolve the problem.
- To get the kids to report, you must connect with them emotionally on some level. This does not mean that you should be best friends with your students; only that your students need to know that you care about them and their welfare. According to MARC's research, many kids perceive that that they took a big risk in “telling,” but often, as far as they know, nothing was done. Confidentiality laws (both federal and, in many states, local) prohibit educators from telling a person specifics about any action taken against another student. But these laws don’t prohibit you from telling a student, “We’re not ignoring your report. We are working on it,” and that’s exactly what reporters need to hear.
- Girls might need particular attention, socially. In the MARC's research, male cyberbullies tended to attack strangers, acquaintances, or kids who were friends long ago. Girls, on the other hand, tended to attack their friends or those with whom they were recently friends. Adolescence is a time when kids are learning how to form the long-term friendships they will depend upon as adults. So be aware of the girls you teach: They might need your help in learning to appreciate and protect their social infrastructure—not attack it.
- Take a moment to reinforce patient, kind, and friendly behaviors. We all know that the carrot works better than the stick. When you notice a child being particularly good-hearted—especially in a potentially difficult situation, like when helping a classmate understand something, or sticking up for another child—be sure to let them know that you personally appreciate and admire their behavior. Better yet, use a classroom recognition system for the students who behave so well.
- Enlist the kids in your efforts. Although adults can be key players, it’s the kids themselves who are the ultimate arbiters of their group’s social behavior. Ask your students what kinds of bullying problems they notice, and what rules they believe should address those problems. Then sit back and watch them enforce their own rules with enthusiasm!
For the full tip sheet above, please click here.
The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) is an academic center at Bridgewater State University which offers many free downloads, games, tips, and curricula for all schools, and parent downloads that are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.