The administration, teachers, guidance department and support staff are committed to providing a safe learning environment at Woodsville High School. Bullying is clearly at odds with this goal, and, therefore will not be tolerated at WHS. However, we cannot do anything to prevent bullying if we do not know about it.
Having said that, I think it is important that everyone involved in the process (teachers, students and parents) understand what the school can and cannot do about bullying. It is also important to understand that the investigations and any subsequent action by administration is prescribed by both State RSA 193:13 and HCSD Policy JICK and are not simply the whim of the administration or the school.
Criteria for Bullying:
Not all negative interactions between students qualify as “bullying”. Sometimes they are simply disagreements between students where, though unfortunate, both are mutually involved in a conflict. Whomever “did it first” or “started it” is not a factor if the other party is similarly engaged.
In order to meet the criteria for bullying we must have a single significant incident, or a pattern of incidents, involving a written, verbal, or electronic communication, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another pupil which:
- Physically harms a pupil or damages the pupil’s property;
- Causes emotional distress to a pupil;
- Interferes with a pupil’s educational opportunities;
- Creates a hostile educational environment; or
- Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school.
“Bullying” shall include actions motivated by an imbalance of power based on a pupil’s actual or perceived personal characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs, or motivated by the pupil’s association with another person and based on the other person’s characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs.
Bullying Report Procedures:
- A teacher, counselor, nurse or any other staff member receives a report of an alleged case of bullying.
- This must be immediately reported to the building Principal or designee (The Dean of Students is the designee to receive bullying reports at WHS).
- The principal or a designee must report the incident to the parents or guardians of both the alleged victim and perpetrator within 48 hours of the report, and in a manner that protects the child’s privacy rights. Anything that could potentially be considered “criminal” would be reported to the police (simple assault, criminal threatening etc.).
- The principal or designee must initiate an investigation within five (5) school days of the reported incident of bullying or cyberbullying.
- The investigation must be completed within ten (10) school days of the reported incident.
- Should include:
- Speaking with the alleged victim
- Speaking with the alleged perpetrator
- Who is entitled to due process under law
- Speaking with known witnesses
- Reviewing other evidence available through reasonable good faith efforts.
- The results of the investigation shall be documented in writing and preserved in accordance with laws governing retention of educational records.
- Should include:
- Upon the completion of the investigation, the principal or designee must promptly report all substantiated incidents of bullying or cyberbullying to the superintendent or designee.
- Within ten (10) school days of completion of an investigation of alleged bullying or cyberbullying, the principal or designee shall provide a written communication to the parents or guardians of the victim and perpetrator regarding the school’s remedies and assistance, within the boundaries of applicable law.
- The parents of the pupils involved in the bullying shall have the right to appeal the principal’s decision to the superintendent in writing within five (5) school days.
- The superintendent shall review the principal’s decision and issue a written decision within ten (10) school days.
- If the aggrieved party is still not satisfied with the outcome, the aggrieved party may file a written request for review by the School Board within ten (10) school days of the superintendent’s decision.
- The School Board or its designee will inform parents of their right to appeal to the New Hampshire State Board of Education.
So, from the initial report of alleged bullying to the appeals process, this can run up to 52 days. Even longer if the students are unavailable for interview and extensions need to be provided under the authority of the Superintendent. During this time, and even afterward, the school cannot share any pertinent information with the public, nor with anyone else not directly involved in the case. We may not share the consequences imposed on the perpetrator, even to the victim.
Unfortunately, these legal constraints often make it appear that the school is unresponsive or “doesn’t care about bullying” simply because the work we must do around these incidents must be done privately and in a manner that preserves all of the rights of our students under the law. Those rights apply in equal measure to the perpetrator as well as the victim.
Woodsville High School reiterates its commitment to investigate and remediate any and all accusations of bullying on our campus, our buses, or at our functions. Substantiated allegations will warrant a range of consequences depending on the student’s placement on our disciplinary continuum.