It is the policy of the State Board of Education and the Wilkes County Board of Education to maintain a safe, orderly and caring learning environment in the public schools, an environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, bullying and discrimination and is inclusive of all students. This policy includes, but is not limited to, the following types of acts: harassment, bullying and discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, sex, religion, creed, ethnicity, political belief, age, national origin, linguistic and language differences, sexual orientation, gender identity/expressions, socioeconomic status, physical characteristics, marital status, or disability.
The Wilkes County Board of Education prohibits acts of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination. A safe and civil environment in school is necessary for students to learn and to achieve high academic standards. Like other disruptive or violent behaviors, harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination is conduct that impedes both a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate its students in a safe environment; and since students learn by example, school administrators, faculty, staff, student leaders and volunteers are expected to demonstrate appropriate behavior, treating others with civility and respect and refusing to tolerate harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination.
Harassment, intimidation, bullying or discrimination is defined as any gesture or any written, verbal, or physical act that takes place on the internet, on school property, at any school-sponsored function, or on a school bus and that:
a. A reasonable person should know that these behaviors under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming or humiliating a student or damaging the student’s property or of placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his/her person or damage to his/her property; or
b. Has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of school.
Harassment can be a type of unlawful discrimination. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed, and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens, or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include but is not limited to epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons. Legitimate age-appropriate pedagogical techniques are not considered harassing behavior.
The hostile environment can be created through pervasive or persistent misbehavior or a single incident, if sufficiently severe. It is possible for harassment to occur at various levels: between fellow students or co-workers, between supervisors and subordinates, between employees and students or between non-employees, including visitors and employees and/or students.
Sexual harassment is addressed in separate board policies (1736, 1745, 1755).
Bullying is deliberately hurtful behavior repeated often over a period of time or on isolated occasions, by which one student or a group of students deliberately intimidates or harasses another. Bullying can take many forms including any combination of physical, emotional, and/or verbal abuse.
Specific acts of bullying may include but are not limited to name calling, teasing, physical abuse (e.g., hitting, pushing, pinching, or kicking), taking of personal possessions, sending abusive text messages, instant messages, internet e-mails, and phone messages, forcing others to hand over money, forcing others to do things against one’s will, attacking others in a way due to religion, gender, sexuality, disability, appearance, racial or ethnic origin. Specific reasons that motivate bullying acts may include but are not limited to the following: racist bullying, sexual bullying, bullying about sexual orientation, bullying about socioeconomic status or disability.
Intimidation is the use of fear or threat(s) to make others do what one wants. This may be fear of physical abuse, humiliation, loss of property, or the fear of harm to friends or loved ones. Some instances of bullying exemplify intimidation (e.g., stronger person makes weaker one fearful). Intimidation can be a threatening act or communication.
Sometimes the phrase sexual intimidation is used for sexual harassment.
Discrimination involves making distinctions between individuals or groups so that preferential treatment is given or denied. Types of discrimination include preferential treatment based on race, gender, religion, personal characteristics, national origin, sexual orientation, behavior, age and political views.
The principal shall oversee the development and implementation of a school plan to prevent, and notify parents in writing of acts of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination. This school plan shall address consequences, effective interventions, reprisals, retaliations, or false accusations associated with acts of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination. Discrimination is illegal and will not be tolerated in Wilkes County Schools; furthermore, all forms of abuse are unacceptable.
Active or passive support for bullying is prohibited. All school employees are required to report and act upon alleged acts of bullying. Students are encouraged to walk away from observed acts of bullying, constructively attempt to stop them, or report them to the designated authority.
CONSEQUENCES AND REMEDIAL ACTIONS FOR STUDENTS WHO COMMIT ACTS OF HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION, BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION
In determining the appropriate response to students who commit one or more acts of harassment, discrimination, or bullying, school administrators shall consider the following factors: the developmental and maturity levels of the parties involved, the degree of harm, the surrounding circumstances, the nature of the behaviors, past incidences or past or continuing patterns of behavior, the relationships between the parties involved, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. Incidents of misbehavior that do not rise to the level of harassment may violate board policy 4310, Standards of Expected Student Behavior. Concluding whether a particular action or incident constitutes a violation of this policy requires a determination based on all the facts and surrounding circumstances. It is only after meaningful consideration of these factors that an appropriate consequence should be determined, consistent with case law, Federal and State statues, regulations, and policies, and district policies and procedures. Consequences for students who commit acts of bullying may range from positive behavioral interventions up to and including suspension or expulsion.
PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING AN ACT OF HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION, BULLYING, OR DISCRIMINATION
At the school, the principal or the principal’s designee is responsible for receiving complaints alleging violations of this policy. All school employees are required to report alleged violations of this policy to the principal or the principal’s designee. Serious acts or a pattern of acts should involve law enforcement officials.
The initial report can be oral, but the formal report shall be written and include the written statement of the target individual(s), the alleged perpetrator(s), the time, location and context of the incident including the names and statements of witnesses and/or those involved. Patterns of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination, if they exist, should be included in the report.
All members of the school community, including students, parents, volunteers, and visitors, are encouraged to officially report, orally, in writing, or anonymously, any act that may be a violation of this policy to a school administrator. All reasonable efforts shall be made to authenticate anonymous reports, but formal disciplinary action requires more than an anonymous report.
PROMPT INVESTIGATION OF REPORTS OF HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION, BULLYING, OR DISCRIMINATION
The principal and/or the principal’s designee are responsible for determining whether an alleged act constitutes a violation of this policy. In so doing, the principal and /or the principal’s designee shall conduct a prompt, thorough, and complete investigation of the alleged incident.
SCHOOL RESPONSE TO ACTS OF HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION, BULLYING, OR DISCRIMINATION
Some acts of bullying may be isolated incidents requiring only that the school respond appropriately to the individuals committing the acts. Other acts may be so serious or parts of a larger pattern of bullying that they require a response either at the classroom, school building, or school district levels or by law enforcement officials. Consequences and appropriate remedial actions for students who commit an act of bullying range from positive behavioral interventions up to and including suspension or expulsion. Administrators shall report harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination as such in reports to the superintendent either on a case-by-case basis (if warranted) or in the annual disciplinary data report.
In considering whether a response beyond the school level is appropriate, the administrator should consider the nature and circumstances of the act, the level of harm, the nature of the behavior, past incidences or past or continuing patterns of behavior, and the context in which the alleged incident(s) occurred.
REPRISAL OR RETALIATION
Retaliation or reprisal against any person who reports a harassment, bullying, or discrimination incident(s) is strictly prohibited. Likewise, students and staff are prohibited from knowingly or willfully falsely accusing one another of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination as a means of retaliation, or reprisal. The consequence and appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in retaliation or reprisal shall be determined by the principal or his/her designee after consideration of the nature and circumstances of the act.
CONSEQUENCES AND REMEDIAL ACTIONS FOR FALSE ACCUSATIONS
Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a student found to have falsely accused another as a means of retaliation or reprisal range from positive behavioral interventions up to and including suspension or expulsion. Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a school employee found to have falsely accused another, as a means of retaliation or reprisal, shall be disciplined in accordance with district policies, procedures, and agreements. Consequences and appropriate remedial action, including reports to appropriate law enforcement officials, for a visitor or volunteer found to have falsely accused another, as a means of retaliation or reprisal, shall be determined by the school administrator after careful consideration of the nature and circumstances of the act.
The policy shall be disseminated annually in the Student Code of conduct to all students, parents, and school staff, along with a statement explaining that the policy applies to all acts of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination that occur on school property, at school sponsored functions, or on a school bus. The principal shall develop an annual process for discussing with students the school district policy on harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination. All employees will sign a written statement indicating that they have received, read and understand the policy and that they agree to abide by the provisions of the policy.
Training on the school district’s harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination policy will be provided to all school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students.
Cross References: Prohibition Against Discrimination and Harassment (1710), Sexual Harassment Defined (1736), Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedure for Students (1745), and Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedure for Employees (1755)
Approved: August 29, 2005