MMSD Bullying Policies
The Madison Metropolitan School District strives to provide an environment where every student feels safe, respected and welcomed and where every staff member can serve students in an atmosphere that is free from significant disruptions and obstacles that impede learning and performance. Bullying can have a harmful social, physical, psychological and/or academic impact on students who are the targets of bullying behaviors, students who engage in bullying behaviors, and bystanders that observe acts of bullying. The School District does not allow bullying behavior toward or by students, school employees or volunteers on school/District grounds, at school/Districtsponsored activities or in transportation to and from school or school/District-sponsored activities.
Defining Bullying Behavior
1. Bullying is the intentional action by an individual or group of individuals to inflict physical, emotional or mental harm or suffering on another individual or group of individuals when there is an imbalance of real or perceived power. Examples of an imbalance of real or perceived power include, but are not limited to:
- Physical strength/size
- Access to embarrassing information
- Age or grade level
- Athlete, scholar or other characteristic impacting a student’s status
2. Bullying behavior may be motivated by an actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic such as, but not limited to, an individual’s sex, race, national origin, ancestry, religion, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or disability.
3. Bullying behavior can be physical, verbal, non-verbal, indirect or direct. Bullying may occur, for example, in situations involving personal contact, and also electronically, in writing, or by using other persons as intermediaries. Bullying may involve repeated behavior. Examples of bullying behavior include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Hitting, pushing, kicking and other acts that physically hurt another person
- Spreading negative rumors about or falsely accusing another person
- Excluding someone from a ‘group’
- Threatening another person
- Manipulating friendships
- Posting or sending mean-spirited messages about someone using phones, electronic mail, websites, blogs, etc. (also known as cyber-bullying)
- Organizing others to threaten, tease, or exclude a targeted individual
4. "Electronic" (or "electronically") is defined as any communication involving the transmission of information by wire, radio, optical cable, electromagnetic or other similar means. "Electronic" includes but is not limited to communication via electronic mail, internet-based communications, pager service, cell phones and text messaging.
Prohibiting Bullying Behavior
Bullying is prohibited on all school and District grounds and in all school and District buildings; at all school and District-sponsored activities; and on all vehicles used for transportation to and from school and school-sponsored/District-sponsored activities. It is the intent of this Policy that bullying behavior is prohibited in all educational environments, regardless of whether the facility/location is owned, leased, or otherwise used or provided by the School District. Educational environments include, but are not limited to, every activity under school supervision. Interactions, including electronic communication, that do not fall under the above list may still be covered by this Policy when these behaviors result in a substantial disruption of the learning environment.
Reporting Bullying Behavior
The prohibition against bullying and the MMSD "Report of Bullying Incident" form shall be included in student handbooks, employee orientation or training materials/handbooks, and District and school websites. This Policy does not require a student or parent to complete this form in order to initiate an investigation. Notice is given to the District once a student or parent/guardian notifies a school official or other staff.
Reporting by Staff and School Officials:
Staff or other school officials shall submit a report of bullying under this paragraph any time (1) a student or parent/guardian presents the staff member/official with a report clearly identified as a report of bullying under this Policy; (2) the staff member/official has knowledge of behavior by an individual (or group of persons) that is prohibited by this Policy (i.e., premised on an imbalance of real or perceived power and intended to inflict physical, emotional or mental harm or suffering (including fear or intimidation) on another person); or (3) the staff member concludes that a student is being subjected to behavior that is physically, emotionally or mentally harming the student and is prohibited by this Policy.
Unless impractical, reports made under this paragraph shall be in writing and should generally be provided on the same day the bullying behavior was observed or that the staff member/official becomes aware of the bullying behavior. For all school-based personnel, the report required by this paragraph should be provided directly to the school’s Principal or an Assistant Principal assigned to the school unless the Principal has expressly identified another staff member to also be a recipient of such reports. For staff and officials not based in a school, such reports should be provided to a building Principal when the incident is tied to a particular school or to the head administrator in the staff member’s/official’s Department. Written reports are preferred, but if it is necessary to make a verbal report, the individual making the report should be clear that he/she is reporting bullying behavior under this Policy. It is understood that the reporting required by this paragraph requires a degree of judgment, and that there will be instances where a reasonable person holding a given position may, or may not, recognize a specific situation as involving behaviors prohibited by this Policy. However, it is the intent of this paragraph that no staff member/official may, by failing to submit a report, exhibit deliberate indifference to harm created by bullying behaviors of which they have knowledge.
Reporting by Students, Parents/Guardians, and Other Persons:
Students, parents or guardians, and other persons are encouraged to make a verbal or written report regarding conduct they consider to be bullying. Written reports may be made on the form entitled "Report of Bullying Incident" and turned into any teacher, Student Services staff or administrator. Verbal reports of bullying under this Policy should be clearly identified as reports of bullying under this Policy and presented to a Principal, Assistant Principal, school-level staff designated by the Principal, or the head of any MMSD Department. The individual receiving a verbal report shall promptly document the complaint on the "Report of Bullying Incident" form. The written report shall be forwarded to the designated school administrator for investigation of the complaint.
Confidentiality of Reports of Bullying:
A person making a report of bullying behavior may request that their identity remain confidential. If a target of bullying behavior requests that their identity not be disclosed in connection with any investigation of the alleged bullying behavior, the Principal and/or other assigned administrator/investigator shall discuss with the student and their parent/guardian how such a request may affect the District’s ability to investigate and/or resolve a given situation. While the District will protect an individual’s confidentiality to the extent possible, the District’s priority is to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff.
The District will make an effort to notify the individual if the District determines that it is not possible to proceed on a confidential basis, though the District will proceed if it determines that it is in the best interests of all students and staff. In addition, the District will maintain the confidentiality of the report and any related student records in a manner consistent with applicable law.
Written reports of bullying and written investigation reports are education records and behavioral records as defined in Board Policy 4151 (Student Records/Definitions). The District may disclose such records to a parent/guardian of a student personally identified in the record or to a school district in which the student has enrolled or intends to enroll. The District may further disclose bullying reports and written investigation reports consistent with Board Policy 4150 (Student Records/Confidentiality).
Anonymous reports of bullying will be reviewed and reasonable action shall be taken to address such reports, consistent with the reliability of available information and taking into account the due process rights of the individual alleged to have committed the acts of bullying.
There shall be no retaliation against the individual(s) making a bullying report or the target of the bullying that is reported. Students engaging in retaliatory behavior may be subject to discipline consistent with the District’s Behavior Education Plan. Staff engaging in retaliatory behavior may be subject to discipline.
Investigating Bullying Behavior
Under the direction of a school administrator, all reports of bullying under this Policy shall be investigated and a written report of the investigation shall be prepared. Investigations shall begin promptly and should generally begin by contacting the identified target(s) of the bullying. The report of the investigation shall identify key facts about the incident, state a determination as to whether acts of bullying were verified, and identify recommendations for intervention, including disciplinary action if appropriate. In addition, the report shall identify steps taken to assist the target/s of the bullying. The District’s Affirmative Action Officer shall be notified whenever bullying behavior is determined or alleged to be harassment. This is the case when behavior is determined or alleged to be motivated by an actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic such as, but not limited to, an individual’s sex, race, national origin, ancestry, religion, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or disability.
Parents and/or guardians of each student involved in incidents determined to be bullying shall be notified prior to the conclusion of the investigation.
Further, if the acts of bullying also fall under behaviors described in the MMSD’s Behavior Education Plan, the administrator investigating the incident shall apply the appropriate response and implement the appropriate interventions.
In circumstances where the parents and/or guardians of either student disagree with the investigating administrator’s conclusion, the parent/guardian may use the General Concern/Complaint process.
Supporting Students Who Are Targets of Bullying Behavior
Schools should take initial steps to address the safety needs of a student who is a target of bullying behavior once bullying is reported. When an investigation finds that bullying behavior occurred, schools must take steps to assist any student who is a target of the bullying and their family, including, but not limited to, developing a safety and support plan. Students and families must have input into the development of the safety and support plan. Targets of bullying must be provided with tools to empower them to overcome the negative effects of bullying. The Principal or a staff member designated by the Principal shall assist the student who is the target of bullying behavior with appropriate interventions. These interventions will be based on the individual student’s needs, and could include mental health supports.
Intervening with Students Who Engage in Bullying Behavior
Schools must create a culture in which bullying is not tolerated. Students must be supported and encouraged to report harassment and bullying and to assist peers who are bullied. Students who engage in bullying behavior must be held accountable for their actions and steps to achieve this include: (1) teaching new skills for communication and empathy, (2) communicating with parents/families, and (3) providing appropriate, incremental consequences and interventions by applying the Behavior Education plan, when applicable.
MMSD Policies and Procedures: 4510