PITTSFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE TOUGH-SOUNDING BULLYING POLICY, BUT AS MOST KNOW, IT MEANS NEXT TO NOTHING … FB ALLEGATION: 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL AT PHS BULLIED, TEACHERS AND COUNSELOR WITNESS IT, BUT NOTHING IS DONE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014) — Pittsfield Public Schools has a zero-tolerance policy on bullying. There also are intelligent microbe-sized beings living under a manhole cover in the 150 block of North Street. These two propositions, the first true and the second unfalsifiable, have about the same believability.
Hooray! The PPS has fancy words on a piece of paper that mean nothing. What a joke.
The sad part is that the current administration allows this joke to be pulled again and again on vulnerable students, their parents, and by extension the whole community, especially the taxpayers who pay to keep such hypocrisy as the order of the day by funding the $90 million+ enterprise.
Kathy Yon, Dan Elias, Dan Bianchi, Tony Riello, Josh Cutler, Pam Farron, and Cindy Taylor: Be warned! The following account is true, taken from the public record of Facebook. THE PLANET asks each of you as members of the Pittsfield School Committee: What will you do about it?
We repeat, now: What will any of you do. You have our address. THE PLANET would love to hear. So would citizens.
Don’t all speak up at once.
Traipsing Through the Handbook
First, though, let us quote at length from the PPS “Policy Handbook for Students and Parents” for this school year:
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Page 8: Anti-bullying/Peer Harassment — Bullying and/or peer harassment is not acceptable conduct in the Pittsfield Public Schools and is prohibited. Any student who engages in conduct that constitutes bullying and/or peer harassment shall be subject to disciplinary consequences up to and including suspension or expulsion in accordance with the student handbook. A student’s bullying and/or peer harassment behavior may also be addressed through other behavioral interventions. For more information about Anti-Bullying/Peer Harassment policies, see Section VII. I., on page 29.
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Now flip forward to page 29 of the policy manual. There you will see the remnants of forests felled to squeeze this torrent of high-sounding, ultimately meaningless words onto paper. You will forgive the petrified, turgid prose. Please do not attribute this writing to THE PLANET. This is a pure product of the PPS, just so we have that nice and sparkling clear!
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Page 29 and forward: Bullying — The Pittsfield Public Schools developed and adopted an Anti-Bullying policy (STU-80 R-12/15/10) that is embedded in district-wide approaches to promoting a positive, pro-social culture for all students and staff, particularly through the District’s School-wide Positive Behavior Support initiative, the Olweus Anti- Bullying Program, and the implementation of school violence prevention curricula, Second Step and Steps to Respect.
Bullying, including cyber-bullying, and retaliation are not acceptable conduct and are prohibited within the Pittsfield Public Schools. Pittsfield Public School leadership and other staff will endeavor to maintain learning and working environments free of bullying. Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information is prohibited. Any student who engages in conduct that constitutes bullying or retaliation shall be subject to a range of disciplinary consequences up to and including suspension or expulsion.
This prohibition is in effect in the following locations: • In the school building and on school grounds • On property immediately adjacent to school grounds • At a bus stop, on the school bus, or in other school-sanctioned transportation such as another vehicle owned, leased, or used by the school district • At a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function, or program whether it takes place on or off school grounds • Through the use of technology or an electronic device that is owned, leased, or used by the school district or school • At any program or location that is not school-related, or through the use of personal technology or electronic device, if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the target, infringes on the rights of the target at school, or materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school
Definitions of Key Terms
Bullying: 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 causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage to the target’s property; that places the target in reasonable fear of harm to himself/herself or of damage to his/her property; that creates a hostile environment at school for the target or infringes on the rights of the target at school; or that materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Bullying includes cyberbullying. (Definition based on M.G.L. c.71, 37O)
Cyberbullying: Bullying through the use of technology or any electronic devises such as telephones, cell phones, computers, and the Internet. It includes, but is not limited to, email, instant messages, text messages, and Internet postings. (Definition based on M.G.L. c.71, 37O)
Aggressor: A student who engages in bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation.
Target: A student against whom bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation is directed.
Hostile Environment: 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.
Reporting by Students, Parents or Guardians, and Others
The school or district expects students, parents or guardians, and others who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying or retaliation involving a student to report it to the principal or designee. Reports may be made anonymously, but no disciplinary action will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report. Anonymous reports can be made by email to email@example.com or through a link in the “Family and Community” portion of the district website. Reports filed in this fashion will go to a dedicated email account that will be regularly reviewed. Students, parents or guardians, and others may request assistance from a staff member to complete a written report or may report orally. Students will be provided practical, safe, private and age-appropriate ways to report and discuss an incident of bullying with a staff member or with the principal or designee. A student who knowingly makes a false allegation of bullying or retaliation shall also be subject to disciplinary action.
Notification of Bullying Requirements
Notice to Parents or Guardians Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the aggressor of this determination and of the procedures for responding to it. There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.
Notice to Another School or District If the reported incident involves students from more than one school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private special education day or residential school, or collaborative school, the principal or designee first informed of the incident will promptly notify by telephone the principal or designee of the other school(s) of the incident so that each school may take appropriate action. All communications will be in accordance with state and federal privacy laws and regulations, and 603 CMR 49.00.
Notice to Law Enforcement At any point after receiving a report of bullying or retaliation, including after an investigation, if the principal or designee has a reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor, the principal will notify the local law enforcement agency. Notice will be consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 49.00 and locally established agreements with the local law enforcement agency. Also, if an incident occurs on school grounds and involves a former student under the age of 21 who is no longer enrolled in school, the principal or designee shall contact the local law enforcement agency if he or she has a reasonable expectation that criminal charges may be pursued against the aggressor.
In making this determination, the principal will, consistent with the district’s Anti-Bullying Policy and state and federal policies and procedures, consult with the school resource officer, if any, and other individuals and organizations such as the Pittsfield Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office, as the principal or designee deems appropriate.”
Responses to Bullying
Teaching Appropriate Behavior Through Skills-building
Upon the principal or designee’s determination that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the school will use a range of responses that balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. [M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O(d)(v)] Skill-building approaches that the principal or designee may consider include:
• Offering individualized skill-building sessions based on the Olweus curriculum • Providing relevant educational activities for individual students or groups of students in consultation with guidance and/or school adjustment counselors and other appropriate school personnel • Implementing a range of academic and nonacademic positive behavioral supports to help students understand pro-social ways to achieve their goals • Meeting with parents and guardians to engage parental support and to reinforce the anti-bullying curricula and social skills building activities at home • Developing individual behavioral plans to include a focus on specific social skill development • Making a referral for counseling or other mental health services for targets, aggressors, and family members.
Taking Disciplinary Action
If the principal or designee decides that disciplinary action is appropriate, the disciplinary action will be determined on the basis of facts found by the principal or designee, including the nature of the conduct, the age of the student(s) involved, and the need to balance accountability with the teaching of appropriate behavior. Discipline will be consistent with the Plan and with the District’s and School’s code of conduct.
Discipline procedures for students with disabilities are governed by the federal “Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act” (IDEA) and state laws regarding student discipline.
If the principal or designee determines that a student knowingly made a false allegation of bullying or retaliation, that student may be subject to disciplinary action.
Promoting Safety for the Target and Others
The principal or designee will consider what adjustments, if any, are needed in the school environment to enhance the target’s sense of safety and that of others as well.
Supportive services will be offered to the target. These services may include safety planning, school adjustment counselor services, and a mental health referral.
Within a reasonable period of time following the determination and the ordering of remedial and/or disciplinary action, the principal or designee will contact the target to determine whether there has been a recurrence of the prohibited conduct and whether additional supportive measures are needed. If so, the principal or designee will work with appropriate school staff to implement them immediately.
The full text of the Pittsfield Public Schools Anti-Bullying Policy is available at www.pittsfield.net. Questions regarding the district plan for the prevention of bullying can be directed to Ann Marie Carpenter at 413-499-9518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Bullying in the schools: THE PLANET has covered this topic before. We have exposed the farce that hides behind the empty policy (for example, see PLANET posts from March 23 and May 2, 2012, found in ARCHIVES under “BLOG” in the yellow tool bar on the PLANET VALENTI home page).
Through a tip from a reader, THE PLANET has got wind of another case of bullying and a lack of response by the schools, in spite the fancy policy. We share it here, verbatim. The following is a recent Facebook post by Gene Ellsworth. Following Ellsworth’s post, we include some comments to it, also from Facebook.
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I am so disgusted with Pittsfield high school!! I know of a 15 yr girl who has been being bullied since September . Now the school and several teachers and even a counselor have witnessed the abuse. Everything from disgusting txt msg to being cornered outside by 5 or more students and forced to give up her lunch money. This has all been document by the school. Here’s the problem. They just brought it to the attention to the parent 2 days ago. Now you might think how does a parent not know? Well this child has been afraid to say anything for fear of what the bullies will do next. It’s been vicious and out of control. So what does the school want to do ? Have the child who’s being bullied hand in her cell phone at each and every class so she can work and not be bothered. !!! Are you kidding me. Punish the victim!!! First of. Why are these kids even allowed to use their cell phone during school hours. I’ve been told other high schools make their kids turn them in at every class and they get them back after the class. But the point here is this young girl is an emotional wreck because of bulling at Pittsfield high school and the faculty knew about and has done nothing. Shame on anyone who works their!!! It’s disgusting !! I will be sending emails to several news stations. Several newspapers and several government agencies!! This has to stop and is apparent that Pittsfield high school doesn’t know how to do it!!!!
Gene Ellsworth They are pulling her. It’s so bad. But the worst of it all is that several teachers wrote up a report of what they witnessed and nothing ever cams of it. The school never notified the parent at all until now because the girl has bad grades. The school is worried about her grades !!!
Joanne Jojo MacDonald Her grades r most likely due to not being able to concentrate and focus while all she can think about is how awful her life is b/c of her bullies! A neighborhood girl I know also had this same issue and yes also forced to leave PHS b/c the staff r obviously can’t handle punishing the bullies instead of the victims!
Dena Porter This is terrible, I thought the police were supposed to step in and the teachers and principle take action against these students that are doing the bullying before this poor girl ends up dead…..makes me sick…..I think its time the teachers and counselors get held accountable for no action being taken and the parent being made aware and someone helping this poor girl before its too late…just saying…
Kristin Zena Burgess I was severly bullied in high school, tortured even, we SHOULD be past this! I am praying for this girl, it hurts deeper than we admit, and if it continues it will be carried for a long time..
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Readers, we ask you now to match the above allegation of bullying with the PPS official policy. THE PLANET knows you see the utter disconnect, but we wonder: Does the school superintendent, his staff, the PHS administration, the mayor, or the school committee see it? The answer is that they probably do. How could they not? That then poses more questions:
* Why are they looking the other way and pretending all is well?
* How much longer will We The People continue to put up with such $90mm+ disservice?
The school committee, the superintendent, and anyone else may reply to this ASAP, here at THE PLANET.
“When the sun in the morning peeps over the hill and it kisses the roses on my windowsill, then my heart fills with gladness as I hear the trill of the birds in the flowers on Mockingbird Hill.” — Peggy Lee, “Mockingbird Hill,” mid-1950s.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.