5131.914 - Safe School Climate Policy

Policy 5131.914

Students

Safe School Climate Policy

Policy Statement


All schools must support and promote teaching and learning environments where each and every student achieves academically and socially, has a strong and meaningful voice and is prepared for democratic life and successful transition into the 21st Century workplace. A positive school climate is an essential element of achieving these goals. Rigorous implementation of the following set of guiding principles and systemic strategies will promote these desired outcomes. 

The Newtown Board of Education (the “Board”) adopts this Policy that is guided by the fundamental belief that each and every school community member should be treated with dignity, should have the opportunity to learn, work, interact and socialize in physically, emotionally and intellectually safe, respectful and positive school environments, as well as the opportunity to experience high quality relationships. Schools, therefore, have the responsibility to promote conditions designed to create, maintain and nurture positive school climate.

This Policy sets forth the framework for an effective and democratically informed school climate improvement process, which includes a continuous cycle of (i) planning and preparation, (ii) evaluation, (iii) action planning, and (iv) implementation.

The Board recognizes that there is not one best way to improve school climate. Each school needs to consider its history, strengths, needs, and goals. This Policy will support and promote the development of research-supported action plans that will create and/or sustain physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe learning environments that foster social, emotional, ethical and academic education.

Definitions

An “Effective School Climate Improvement Process” is one that engages all stakeholders in the following six essential practices:

1.    Promoting decision-making that is collaborative, democratic, and actively involves all stakeholders (e.g., school personnel, students, families, community members) with varied and meaningful roles and perspectives where all voices are heard; 

2.    Utilizing psychometrically sound quantitative (e.g. survey) and qualitative (e.g. interviews, focus groups) data to drive action planning, preventive/intervention practices and implementation strategies that continuously improve all dimensions of school climate, including regularly collecting data to evaluate progress and inform the improvement process;

3.    Tailoring improvement goals to the unique needs of the students and broader school community. These goals shall be integrated into overall school improvement efforts thereby leveraging school strengths to address evidence-based areas of need, while sustaining the improvement process over time; 

4.    Fostering adult learning in teams and/or professional learning communities to build capacity building among school personnel and develop common staff skills to educate the whole child; 

5.    Basing curriculum, instruction, student supports, and interventions on scientific research and grounding in cognitive, social-emotional, and psychological theories of youth development. Interventions include strength-based programs and practices that together represent a comprehensive continuum of approaches to promote healthy student development and positive learning environments as well as address individual student barriers to learning; and

6.    Strengthening policies and procedures related to:
a. climate informed teaching and learning environments;
b. infrastructure to facilitate data collection, analysis, and effective planning; 
c. implementation of school climate improvement plans; 
d. evaluation of the school climate improvement process; and
e. sustainability of school climate improvement efforts. 

“Positive Sustained School Climate” is the foundation for learning and positive youth development and includes:

1.    Norms, values and expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically safe;
2.    People who treat one another with dignity, and are engaged and respected;
3.    A school community that works collaboratively together to develop, live and contribute to a shared school vision;
4.    Adults who model and nurture attitudes that emphasize the benefits and satisfaction gained from learning; and
5.    A school community that contributes to the operations of the school and the care of the physical environment.

“Safe School Committee” (the ”Committee”) means the committee appointed at a specific school building by the Specialist to perform the duties described herein.

“Safe School Climate Coordinator” (the “Coordinator”) means the Superintendent or the certified administrator appointed by the Superintendent to oversee the implementation of the district's Safe School Climate Plan and perform the duties described herein.

“Safe School Climate Plan” means the district plan developed and implemented pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 10-222(d), containing provisions pertaining to bullying, filing complaints and conducting investigations, and posted on the district website.

“Safe School Climate Specialist” (the “Specialist”) means the certified administrator appointed by the Coordinator at a specific school building to oversee the implementation of the district's Safe School Climate Plan within the building, oversee the implementation of the School Climate Improvement Plan within the building, and perform the duties described herein.

“School Climate” means the quality and character of the school life with a particular focus on the quality of the relationships within the school community between and among students and adults. School climate is also based on patterns of people's experiences of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching, learning, leadership practices and organizational structures.

“School Climate Improvement Plan” (the “Improvement Plan”) means the building-specific plan developed by the Committee using the Survey data and developed in accordance with the process described herein. An Improvement Plan must include the requirements of the Safe School Climate Plan, but has the larger purpose of improving school climate on a more global level.

“School Climate Survey” (the “Survey”) shall mean a well-established reliable and valid survey, approved by the Connecticut State Department of Education, with additional external confirmation of its strength through third party evaluators and research studies, that is vigorously field tested, measures the core district populations (including students, parents/guardians, all school personnel - administrators, educators, certified and noncertified staff) and, when available, the wider community, and is easy and quick to administer. It shall also be administered in the predominant languages used by the population being surveyed.

“School employee” means (1) a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school Superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, school paraprofessional or coach employed by the Board; or (2) any other individual who, in the performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in a public elementary, middle or high school, pursuant to a contract with the Board.

“Social Justice” means a community that enables its members to be fulfilled as fully engaged contributors to their community.  It provides the foundation for a healthy and thriving school community that takes care of all of its members, especially those with the least advantage. A socially just community insures that there is complete and genuine fairness and equality.  To that end, each and every school community member (students, faculty/staff, parents/guardians, family members, community members, etc.) no matter his or her age, role, power base, privilege, advantage, etc.:
 
1.    Has value, worth and is treated with dignity;
2.    Is assured protection of his/her liberties, rights and opportunities;
3.    Is honored and celebrated for his/her unique background, culture, language, gifts and/or challenges; 
4.    Has fair and equal access to all curricular, extra-curricular educational and social programs;
5.    Is provided the opportunity to have a meaningful voice in decision making and policy creation; and
6.    Feels physically, emotionally and intellectually safe to exercise his/her voice, participate freely and contribute to the well-being and benefit of the entire school community.

Declarations

I.     Applicable Standards:


A.    For School Employees:

1.    All certified educators in the State of Connecticut are accountable for compliance with the regulations enacted by the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Bureau of Education Standards and Certification, including, but not limited to the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility For Teachers, Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, (Section 10-145d0400a) and the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility For Administrators, Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (Section 10-145d0400b) (collectively “Codes”), as they may be amended from time to time. 

2.    All school employees are accountable for compliance with the policies and procedures of the Board applicable to personnel, including, but not limited to non-discrimination, conduct and professional rights and responsibilities.


B.    For Students:
All students are accountable for compliance with applicable codes of student conduct, policies and procedures for student participation and behavior.

C.    For Board Members:
Board Members are accountable for compliance with the Board’s Code of Ethics and applicable Board By-laws governing Board member conduct.

D.    For Persons Contracted to Provide Services to the Board:
Persons contracted to provide services to the Board (such as bus drivers, consultants, evaluators or the like) are accountable for compliance with such codes of ethics as may apply professionally, the terms of any such contract, as well as the policies and procedures of the Board generally applicable to persons on school property.

E.    For Other Participants in the School Community:
Parents/guardians, family members, visitors and other persons on school property or otherwise participating in programs or services of the District Public Schools are accountable for conducting themselves in accordance with applicable policies and procedures pertaining to such participation.

II.    Alignment with Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-222(d): 

A.    This Policy is aligned with C.G.S. 10-222(d), “An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws.”

B.    In order to be in compliance with applicable law, all individual schools in the District of Newtown must adhere to the following requirements: 

1.    In order to develop and maintain an “Effective School Climate Improvement Process, schools must develop and implement “Improvement Plans,” administer and utilize the findings of “School Climate Surveys,” and engage in a continuing systemic process of learning and evaluating identified goals and objectives. The vision of the Newtown Board of Education is to support a vibrant and thriving school community by removing any barriers to teaching and learning, and reengaging those who may have become disengaged.

2.    In order to implement an Effective School Climate Improvement Process, qualified and effective leadership is required. Such leadership shall be developed through (a) the implementation and satisfaction of appropriate professional development, (b) the Superintendent or the appointment of a Coordinator by the Superintendent, (c) the appointment of Specialists at each school building by the Coordinator, and (d) the establishment of a Committee at each school building.

III.    Safe School Climate Coordinator Roles and Responsibilities:

A.  The Superintendent shall assume the role of, or appoint from among existing school district administrators, a district Coordinator. 
B.  The duties of the Coordinator shall include those enumerated under C.G.S. Section 10-222(d) and the Newtown Board of Education’s Regulation Section 5131.911, at a minimum, and shall also include the following:
1.    Overseeing the implementation of the district's Safe School Climate Plan;
2.     Preventing, identifying and responding to any kind of mean-spirited behavior including, but not limited to reports of alleged bullying and harassment in the schools of the district, in collaboration with the Specialists, as well as the Board and the Superintendent as appropriate;
3.    Providing data and information regarding school climate improvement to the Connecticut State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Superintendent as may be required by law;
4.    Meeting with the Specialists at least twice during the school year to: (a) identify strategies to improve school climate that promotes high quality relationships among all school community members, and, as a result, is designed to eliminate intentional and unintentional mean-spirited behaviors including, but not limited to bullying and harassment, (b) make recommendations concerning amendments to the district's Safe School Climate Plan, as well as to make recommendations concerning amendments to each individual school's “School Climate Improvement Plan,” and (c) oversee completion of each individual school's “School Climate Survey;” and
5.    Providing leadership for the following activities: (a) Advancement of evidence-based policy and best practices to improve school climate, foster high quality relationships, and promote physical, emotional, and intellectual school safety; and (b) Development and dissemination of resources and training materials for Specialists, Committees, school staff and community members about issues of school climate and school climate improvement efforts and activities.

IV.    Safe School Climate Specialist Roles and Responsibilities:

A.    At the beginning of each school year, the Principal of each school, or the Principal's designee as approved by the Coordinator, shall serve as the Specialist for the individual school to which he or she is assigned.

B.     The Specialist's duties shall include those enumerated under C.G.S. Section 10-222(d) and the Newtown Board of Education’s Regulation Section 5131.911. In addition to these duties, the Specialist shall:
1.    Investigate, or supervise the investigation of, reported acts of mean-spirited behaviors including, but not limited to reports of alleged bullying and harassment in the school in accordance with this Policy;
2.    Collect and maintain records of such reports in the school;
3.     Act as the primary school official responsible for preventing, identifying and responding to such reports in the school and leading efforts to improve school climate;
4.    Chair or co-chair the Committee and establish the meeting calendar for the Committee meetings; and
5.    Serve as the primary supervisor of the school's School Climate Improvement Plan for the implementation and the monitoring of the School Climate Improvement Plan.

V.    Safe School Climate Committee Roles and Responsibilities:

A.    In collaboration with the Coordinator, the Specialist at each school building shall form a representative Committee consisting of a demographically representative group of students enrolled in the school (if developmentally appropriate); parents of students enrolled in the school; school personnel, including, but not limited to teachers, administrators, student support personnel; other medical and mental health experts where available; and community members.

B.    Such Committee shall be formed no later than 30 days from the effective date of this Policy.

C.    Committee composition/membership shall be reviewed annually by the Coordinator and the Specialist.

D.    The duties of the Committee shall include those enumerated under C.G.S. Section 10-222(d) and the Newtown Board of Education’s Regulation Section 5131.911. In addition to these duties, the Committee shall, at a minimum, perform the following duties:

1.    Supervising the scheduling and administration of “School Climate Surveys” to students, staff, parents, and community members; 
2.    Setting goals and tracking survey completion; 
3.    Reaching out to staff and parents before administering the Survey; 
4.    Providing Survey data to the Coordinator; 
5.    Reviewing and analyzing the school-based school climate assessment data; 
6.    Using the data and other appropriate data and information to identify strengths and challenges with respect to improving school climate; 
7.    Using the data to create and/or update the school-based School Climate Improvement Plan; 
8.    Overseeing the implementation of the school-based School Climate Improvement Plan; 
9.    Implementing the School Climate Improvement Plan and monitoring the progress of school climate improvement, in collaboration with the Coordinator;
10.    Overseeing the implementation of annual school climate assessments at the school;
11.    Reviewing and making recommendations to the Coordinator regarding the safe school climate plan based on issues and experiences specific to the school; 
12.    Overseeing the education of students, school employees and parents/ guardians of students on issues relating to improving school climate;
13.    Holding meetings at least four times each year, at which minutes shall be kept and made available to the public; and
14.    Performing any other duties as determined by the Specialist and/or the Coordinator that are related to improving school climate in the school, or required by law.

VI.    School Climate Surveys:

A.    Each school, supported with oversight by the Coordinator and under the guidance of the Committee, shall administer, on an annual or biennial basis, at the same time of year each year, the School Climate Survey in order to assess a school's strengths and challenges.
B.    Preparation for Survey Administration: All survey participants should be made aware of the purpose and value of the survey as determined by the Committee prior to administration, so that the school will receive authentic data to help drive decisions that will benefit the entire school community.

VII.    School Climate Improvement Plans:

In collaboration with the Coordinator, each Specialist shall develop and/or update an Improvement Plan based on the findings of the School Climate Survey.

A.    The Specialist and the Committee shall develop and/or update the Improvement Plan, taking into consideration the needs of all key stakeholders, with sensitivity to equity and diversity.

B.     The Improvement Plan shall support the actualization of the following five Standards:
Standard 1: Develop a shared vision and plan for promoting, enhancing and sustaining a positive school climate.
Standard 2: Develop policies that promote social, emotional, ethical, civic and intellectual learning as well as systems that address barriers to learning.
Standard 3: Implement practices that promote the learning and positive social, emotional, ethical and civic development of students and student engagement as well as addressing barriers to learning.
Standard 4: Create an environment where all members are welcomed, supported, and feel safe in school: socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically.
Standard 5: Develop meaningful and engaging practices, activities and norms that promote social and civic responsibilities and a commitment to social justice.
 
C.    Each Improvement Plan shall be submitted to the Coordinator for approval and implementation no later than mid-September of each school year. The Coordinator may provide feedback to the Committee with respect to amendments to the Improvement Plan.

VIII.    Codes of conduct for both students and adults shall be amended to reinforce positive school climates by detailing, and consistently recognizing and supporting positive behavior, applying appropriate graduated and restorative responses for inappropriate conduct, in order to address the root causes of the individual’s specific conduct, while promoting physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe and supportive teaching and learning environments for all students and adults in the school community. Restorative practice builds community, celebrates accomplishments, transforms conflict, rebuilds and strengthens relationships. Such responses shall be educative and restorative and be chosen in response to the context of each situation to support relationship-building and improvement, and with particular attention to issues of equity. These responses may include, but are not limited to one or more of the following: 
A.    Reflective activities; 
B.    School counseling support;
C.    Anger management;
D.    Health counseling or intervention;
H.    Mental health counseling;
I.    Skill building such as social and emotional, cognitive, and intellectual skills;
J.    Resolution circles and restorative conferencing; 
K.    Community service; 
L.    Conflict resolution or mediation; and
M.    Other actions detailed in accordance with Board policies and procedures such as those regarding:
 
1.    Participation in extracurricular activities;
2.    Student discipline (including detention, in or out of school suspension, and expulsion); and
3.    Adult/employee professional responsibility, conduct, separation/disciplinary actions. 

IX.    Professional Development

A.    Mandated school climate trainings shall be provided by individuals and/or organizations deemed qualified service providers by the Superintendent and/or the Coordinator.
B.    All school employees, as defined in this policy, shall participate in any mandated school climate trainings and update sessions. 
C.    The District shall provide necessary on-site coaching and/or technical assistance in the implementation phase of school climate improvement.

X.    Funding

The District shall budget sufficient funding to satisfy the requirements of this Policy. Such funding shall be distributed accordingly, with Superintendent approval, for assessments and professional development, as well as for community outreach, training, coaching, and technical assistance.

XI.      Accountability

The Board shall establish, foster, support and maintain a ``no fault" framework and promote a culture of trust. Such a framework and culture is evident by a shared intent to:

A.    Take collective responsibility for what has been accomplished and/or not accomplished;
B.    Learn from what has been done well and not so well;
C.    Work together to improve the quality and character of school life;
D.    Create a highly effective professional learning community (PLC) whose responsibility it is to:

1.    Establish norms, values and goals that encourage and support collaborative and courageous leadership;
2.    Model and provide high quality academic, social, emotional and ethical learning; and
3.    Engage in ongoing reflection and evaluation.
a.    The Board shall hold itself, its individual members, and the Superintendent to the standards of this Policy and promote its intent and goals.
b.    The Superintendent shall hold himself/herself, the staff, the students and other members of the school community to the standards of this Policy.

XII.    Compliance with Other Applicable Laws

This Policy does not modify or eliminate a school's obligation to comply with state and federal constitutional protections and civil rights laws applicable to schools.

XIII.    Liberal Interpretation

The design of this Policy being to facilitate the operation of the school district in a positive manner and to advance justice, the Policy provisions will be interpreted liberally in any case where it shall be manifest that a strict adherence to them will work surprise or a manifest injustice.

Legal Reference:    Connecticut General Statutes
10-15b Access of parent or guardian to student’s records. Inspection and subpoena of school or student records.
10-222d Policy on bullying behavior as amended by PA 08-160, P.A. 11-232 and P.A. 14-172.
P.A. 06-115 An Act Concerning Bullying Policies in Schools and Notices Sent to Parents or Legal Guardians.
P.A. 11-232 An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws.
P.A. 13-3 An Act Concerning Gun Violence Protection and Safety 
P.A. 14-172 An Act Concerning Improving Employment Opportunities through Education and Ensuring Safe School Climates.
P.A. 14-234 An Act Concerning Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.



Policy adopted:    July 18, 2017    NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
    Newtown, Connecticut
 
Appendix

Newtown Safe School Climate Plan


The Newtown Board of Education (Board) promotes a secure and happy school climate, conducive to teaching and learning that is free from threat, harassment and any type of bullying behavior.  Therefore it shall be the policy of the Board that bullying of a student by another student is prohibited.

The Board believes that a school environment in which students feel safe, supported, engaged and helpfully challenged is optimal for learning and healthy development. The Board seeks an environment in which students and adults feel socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically safe; an environment that is free of harassment, intimidation and bullying.

I.    Prohibition Against Bullying and Retaliation 

A.     The Board expressly prohibits any form of bullying behavior on school grounds and teen dating violence; at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program whether on or off school grounds; at a school bus stop; on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by a local or regional board of education; or through the use of an electronic device or an electronic mobile device owned, leased or used by Board of Education. 
B.     The Board also prohibits any form of bullying behavior outside of the school setting if such bullying (i) creates a hostile environment at school for the student against whom such bullying was directed, (ii) infringes on the rights of the student against whom such bullying was directed at school, or (iii) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school; 
C.     The Board further prohibits any form of teen dating violence outside of the school setting if such violence substantially disrupts the educational process; 
D.     In addition to prohibiting student acts that constitute bullying, the Board also prohibits discrimination and/or retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of bullying. 
E.     Students who engage in bullying behavior in violation of Board Policy and the Safe School Climate Plan shall be subject to school discipline, up to and including expulsion, in accordance with the Board's policies on student discipline, suspension and expulsion, and consistent with state and federal law.

II.    Definition of Bullying

“Bullying” means the repeated use by one or more students of a written, oral or electronic communication, such as cyberbullying, directed at or referring to another student attending school in the same school district or a physical act or gesture by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student attending school in the same school district that: 
 
A.    causes physical or emotional harm to such student or damage to such student’s property, 
B.    places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property, 
C.    creates a hostile environment at school for such student,
D.    infringes on the rights of such student at school, or 
E.    Substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. 
 
Bullying shall include, but not be limited to, a written, oral, or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance,  or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics. (The student against whom the activity is directed must be attending school in the same district as the students engaged in the activity.)

III.     Other Definitions

“Cyberbullying” means any act of bullying through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications.

“Teen dating violence” means any act of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, including stalking, harassing and threatening that occurs between two students who are currently in or have recently been in a dating relationship.

“Mobile electronic device” means any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more individuals, including, but not limited to, a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, equipment that is capable of playing a video game or a digital video disk, or equipment on which digital images are taken or transmitted.

“Electronic communication” means any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo-optical system.

“Hostile environment” means a situation in which bullying among students is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the school climate. 

“Outside of the school setting” means at a location, activity or program that is not school related, or through the use of an electronic device or a mobile electronic device that is not owned, leased or used by a local or regional board of education.

“School employee” means (a) a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, school paraprofessional or coach employed by a local or regional board of education or working in a public elementary, middle or high school; or (b) any other individual who, in the performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in a public elementary, middle or high school, pursuant to a contract with the local or regional board of education.

“School climate” means the quality and character of school life with a particular focus on the quality of the relationships within the school community between and among students and adults. (and reflects norms, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices and organizational structures.)

“Prevention and intervention strategy” may include, but is not limited to, (1) implementation of a positive behavioral interventions and supports process or another evidence-based model approach for safe school climate or for the prevention of bullying identified by the Department of Education, (2) school rules prohibiting bullying, harassment and intimidation and establishing appropriate consequences for those who engage in such acts, (3) adequate adult supervision of outdoor areas, hallways, the lunchroom and other specific areas where bullying is likely to occur, (4) inclusion of grade-appropriate bullying education and prevention curricula in kindergarten through high school, (5) individual interventions with the bully, parents and school employees, and interventions with the bullied child, parents and school employees, (6) school-wide training related to safe school climate, (7) student peer training, education and support, and (8) promotion of parent involvement in bullying prevention through individual or team participation in meetings, trainings and individual interventions.  

“School-Sponsored Activity” shall mean any activity conducted on or off school property (including school buses and other school-related vehicles) that is sponsored, recognized or authorized by the Board of Education.

IV.     Leadership and Administrative Responsibilities 

District Safe School Climate Coordinator


For the school year commencing July 1, 2012, and each school year thereafter, the Superintendent of Schools shall appoint, from among existing District staff, a District Safe School Climate Coordinator.

The Coordinator shall:

1.    Implement the District’s safe school climate plan;
2.    Collaborate with safe school climate specialists, the Board, and the Superintendent to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying and teen dating violence in the schools of the district.
3.    Provide data and information derived from the safe school climate assessments, in collaboration with the Superintendent to the Department of Education; 
4.    Meet with the safe school climate specialists at least twice during the school year to discuss bullying and teen dating violence issues in the District and make recommended changes to the District’s safe school climate plan.
Safe School Climate Specialist
For the school year commencing July 1, 2012, and each school year thereafter, each school Principal shall serve, or designate someone to serve, as the Safe School Climate Specialist for the school.

The Specialist in each school shall:

1.    Investigate reported acts of bullying in the school in accordance with the District’s Safe School Climate Plan;
2.    Investigate reported teen dating violence in accordance with the District’s Safe School Climate Plan and, as appropriate, work in concert with the school’s School Resource Officer (SRO) and/or local authorities. Parent notification will be required.
3.    Collect and maintain records of reports and investigations of bullying and teen dating violence in the school (in collaboration with local police when appropriate); and
4.    Act as the primary school official responsible for school-wide prevention efforts, identification of, and response to bullying and teen dating violence reports in the school.
V.     Development and Review of Safe School Climate Plan 
A.     For the school year commencing July 1, 2012 and each school year thereafter, the Principal of each school shall establish a committee or designate at least one existing committee (“Committee”) in the school to be responsible for developing and fostering a safe school climate and addressing issues relating to bullying in the school. Such committee shall include at least one parent/guardian of a student enrolled in the school, as appointed by the school principal. 
B.     The Committee shall: 1) receive copies of completed reports following bullying investigations; 2) identify and address patterns of bullying among students in the school; 3) review and amend school policies relating to bullying; 4) review and make recommendations to the Coordinator regarding the Safe School Climate Plan based on issues and experiences specific to the school; 5) educate students, school employees and parents/guardians on issues relating to bullying; 6) collaborate with the Coordinator in the collection of data regarding bullying; and 7) perform any other duties as determined by the Principal that are related to the prevention, identification and response to school bullying.
C.     Any parent/guardian serving as a member of the Committee shall not participate in any activities which may compromise the confidentiality of any student, including, but not limited to receiving copies of investigation reports, or identifying or addressing patterns of bullying among students in the school.
D.     Not later than January 1, 2012, the Board of Education shall approve the Safe School Climate Plan developed pursuant to Board policy and submit such plan to the Department of Education. Not later than thirty (30) calendar days after approval by the Board, the Board shall make such plan available on the Board's and each individual school in the school district's web site and ensure that the Safe School Climate Plan is included in the school Appendix B district's publication of the rules, procedures and standards of conduct for schools and in all student handbooks. 

VI.     Procedures for Reporting and Investigating Complaints of Bullying 

A.     Students and parents (or guardians of students) may file written reports of bullying. Written reports of bullying shall be reasonably specific as to the basis for the report, including the time and place of the alleged conduct, the number of incidents, the target of the suspected bullying, and the names of potential witnesses. Such reports may be filed with any building administrator and/or the Safe School Climate Specialist (i.e. building principal), and all reports shall be forwarded to the Safe School Climate Specialist for review and actions consistent with this Plan. 
B.     Students may make anonymous reports of bullying to any school employee. Students may also request anonymity when making a report, even if the student’s identity is known to the school employee. In cases where a student requests anonymity, the Safe School Climate Specialist or his/her designee shall meet with the student (if the student’s identity is known) to review the request for anonymity and discuss the impact that maintaining the anonymity of the complainant may have on the investigation and on any possible remedial action. All anonymous reports shall be reviewed and reasonable action will be taken to address the situation, to the extent such action may be taken that does not disclose the source of the report, and is consistent with the due process rights of the student(s) alleged to have committed acts of bullying. No disciplinary action shall be taken solely on the basis of an anonymous report.  
School employees who witness acts of bullying or receive reports of bullying shall orally notify the Safe School Climate Specialist or another school administrator if the Safe School Climate Specialist is unavailable, not later than one (1) school day after such school employee witnesses or receives a report of bullying. The school employee shall then file a written report not later than two (2) school days after making such oral report.  
D.     The Safe School Climate Specialist shall be responsible for reviewing any anonymous reports of bullying and shall investigate or supervise the investigation of all reports of bullying and ensure that such investigation is completed promptly after receipt of any written reports. The Safe School Climate Specialist shall also be responsible for promptly notifying the parents or guardians of the student alleged to have committed an act or acts of bullying, and the parents or guardians of the student against whom such alleged act or acts were directed, than an investigation has commenced. In order to allow the district to adequately investigate complaints filed by a student or parent/guardian, the parent of the student suspected of being bullied should be asked to provide consent to permit the release of that student’s name in connection with the investigation process, unless the student and/or parent has requested anonymity. 
E.     In investigating reports of bullying, the Safe School Climate Specialist or designee will consider all available information known, including the nature of the allegations and the ages of the students involved. The Safe School Climate Specialist will interview witnesses, as necessary, reminding the alleged perpetrator and other parties that retaliation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.

VII.     Responding to Verified Acts of Bullying

Following investigation, if acts of bullying are verified, the Safe School Climate Specialist or designee shall notify the parents or guardians of the students against whom such acts were directed as well as the parents or guardians of the students who commit such acts of bullying of the finding not later than forty-eight hours after the investigation is completed. This notification shall include a description of the school’s response to the acts of bullying. In providing such notification, however, care must be taken to respect the statutory privacy rights of other students, including the perpetrator of such bullying. The specific disciplinary consequences imposed on the perpetrator, or personally identifiable information about a student other than the parent/guardian’s own child, may not be disclosed except as provided by law.

B.     In any instance in which bullying is verified, the Safe School Climate Specialist or designee shall invite the parents or guardians of the student whom such act was directed to a meeting to communicate the measures being taken by the school to ensure the safety of the student/victim and policies and procedures in place to prevent further acts of bullying. The Safe School Climate Specialist or designee shall also invite the parents or guardians of a student who commits any verified act of bullying to a meeting, separate and distinct from the previously described meeting, to discuss specific interventions undertaken by the school to prevent further acts of bullying. The invitation may be made simultaneous with the notification described above in Section VII.A. 

C.     If bullying is verified, the Safe School Climate Specialist or designee shall develop a student safety support plan for any student against whom an act of bullying was directed. Such support plan will include safety measures to protect against further acts of bullying. 

D.     A specific written intervention plan shall be developed to address repeated incidents of bullying against a single individual or recurrently perpetrated bullying incidents by the same individual. The written intervention plan may include counseling, discipline and other appropriate remedial actions as determined by the Safe School Climate Specialist or designee, and may also incorporate a student safety support plan, as appropriate. 

E.     Notice to Law Enforcement 

If the Principal of a school (or his/her designee) reasonably believes that any act of bullying constitutes a criminal offense, he/she shall notify appropriate law enforcement. Notice shall be consistent with the Board’s obligations under state and federal law and Board policy regarding the disclosure of personally identifiable student information. In making this determination, the Principal or his/her designee, may consult with the school resource office, if any, and other individuals the principal or designee deems appropriate. 

F.     If a bullying complaint raises concern about discrimination or harassment on the basis of a legally protected classifications (such as race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability or gender identity), the Safe School Climate Specialist or designee shall also coordinate any investigation with other Appendix B appropriate personnel within the district as appropriate (e.g. Title IX Coordinator, Section 504 Coordinator etc.) 

VIII.    Teen Dating Violence 

A.     The school strictly prohibits, and takes very seriously any instances of teen dating violence, as defined above. The school recognizes that teen dating violence may take many different forms and may also be considered bullying and/or sexual harassment. 

B.     Students and parents (or guardians of students) may bring verbal or written complaints regarding teen dating violence to any building administrator. The building administrator shall review and address the complaint, which may include referral of the complaint to the Safe School Climate Specialist, School Resource Officer (SRO), and/or local authorities. 

C.     Prevention and intervention strategies concerning teen dating violence shall be implemented in accordance with Section X below. Discipline, up to and including expulsion, may be imposed against the perpetrator of teen dating violence, whether such conduct occurs on or off campus, in accordance with Board policy and consistent with federal and state law. 

IX.     Documentation and Maintenance of Log 

A.     Each school shall maintain written reports of bullying, along with supporting documentation received and/or created as a result of bullying investigations, consistent with the Board’s obligations under state and federal law. Any educational record containing personally identifiable student information pertaining to an individual student shall be maintained in a confidential manner, and shall not be disclosed to third parties without written prior written consent of a parent, guardian or eligible student, except as permitted under Board policy and state and federal law. 

B.     The Principal of each school shall maintain a list of the number of verified acts of bullying in the school and this list shall be available for public inspection upon request. Consistent with district obligations under state and federal law regarding student privacy, the log shall not contain any personally identifiable student information, or any information that alone or in combination would allow a reasonable person in the school community to identify the students involved. Accordingly, the log should be limited to basic information such as the number of verified acts, name of school and/or grade level and relevant date. Given that any determination of bullying involves repeated acts, each investigation that results in a verified act of bullying for that school year shall be tallied as one verified act of bullying unless the specific actions that are the subject of each report involve separate and distinct acts of bullying. 

The list shall be limited to the number of verified acts of bullying in each school and shall not set out the particulars of each verified act, including, but not limited to any personally identifiable student information, which is confidential information by law. 

C.     The Principal of each school shall report the number of verified acts of bullying in the school annually to the Department of Education in such manner as prescribed by the Commissioner of Education.

X.     Other Prevention and Intervention Strategies 

A.     Bullying behavior and teen dating violence can take many forms and can vary dramatically in the nature of the offense and the impact the behavior may have on the victim and other students. Accordingly, there is no one prescribed response to verified acts of bullying or to teen dating violence. While conduct that rises to the level of “bullying” or “teen dating violence” as defined above, will generally warrant traditional disciplinary action against the perpetrator of such bullying or teen dating violence, whether and to what extent to impose disciplinary action (e.g., detention, in-school suspension, suspension or expulsion) is a matter for the professional discretion of the building principal (or responsible program administrator or his/her designee). No disciplinary action may be taken solely on the basis of an anonymous complaint of bullying. As discussed below, schools may also consider appropriate alternative to traditional disciplinary sanctions, including age-appropriate consequences and other restorative or remedial interventions. 

B.    A specific written intervention plan shall be developed to address repeated incidents of bullying against a single individual or recurrently perpetrated bullying incidents by the same individual. This plan may include safety provisions, as described above, for students against whom acts of bullying have been verified and may include other interventions such as counseling, discipline, and other appropriate remedial or restorative actions as determined by the responsible administrator. 

C.     The following sets forth possible interventions which may also be utilized to enforce the Board’s prohibition against bullying: 

1.    Non-disciplinary interventions: 

When verified acts of bullying are identified early and/or when such verified acts of bullying do not reasonably require a disciplinary response, students may be counseled as to the definition of bullying, its prohibition, and their duty to avoid any conduct that could be considered bullying. Students may also be subject to other forms of restorative discipline or remedial actions, appropriate to the age of the students and nature of the behavior. 
If a complaint arises out of conflict between students or groups of students, peer or other forms of mediation may be considered. Special care, however, is warranted in referring such cases to peer mediation. A power imbalance may make the process intimidating for the victim and therefore inappropriate. In such cases, the victim should be given additional support. Alternatively, peer mediation may be deemed inappropriate to address the concern. 

When an act or acts of teen dating violence are identified, the students involved may be counseled as to the seriousness of the conduct, the prohibition of teen dating violence, and their duty to avoid any such conduct. Students may also be subject to other forms of restorative discipline or remedial actions, appropriate to the age of the students and nature of the behavior. 

2.     Disciplinary interventions: 

When acts of bullying are verified or teen dating violence occurs, and a disciplinary response is warranted, students are subject to the full range of disciplinary consequences. Anonymous complaints, however, shall not be the basis for disciplinary action. 

In-school suspension and suspension may be imposed only after informing the accused perpetrator of the reasons for the proposed suspension and giving him/her an opportunity to explain the situation, in accordance with the Board’s Student Discipline policy. 

Expulsion may be imposed only after a hearing before the Board of Education, a committee of the Board or an impartial hearing officer designated by the Board of Education in accordance with the Board’s Student Discipline policy. This consequence shall normally be reserved for serious incidents of bullying and teen dating violence, and/or when past interventions have not been successful in eliminating bullying behavior. 

3.     Interventions for bullied students and victims of teen dating violence - the building principal (or other responsible program administrator) or his/her designee shall intervene in order to address incidents of bullying or teen dating violence against a single individual. Intervention strategies for a bullied student or victim of teen dating violence may include the following: 
a.    Referral to a school counselor, psychologist or other appropriate social or mental health service;
b.    Increased supervision and monitoring of student to observe and intervene in bullying situations or instances of teen dating violence; 
c.    Encouragement of student to seek help when victimized or witnessing victimization; 
d.    Peer mediation or other forms of mediation, where appropriate; 
e.    Student Safety Support plan; and 
f.    Restitution and/or restorative interventions. 
g.    Periodic follow-up by the Safe School Climate Specialist and/or Title IX Coordinator with the bullied student or victim of teen dating violence; 

4.     General Prevention and Intervention Strategies 

In addition to the prompt investigation of complaints of bullying and direct intervention when acts of bullying are verified, other district actions Appendix B may ameliorate potential problems with bullying in school or at school sponsored activities. Additional district actions may also ameliorate potential problems with teen dating violence. While no specific action is required, and school needs for specific prevention and intervention strategies may vary from time to time, the following list of potential prevention and intervention strategies shall serve as a resource for administrators, teachers and other professional employees in each school. Such prevention and intervention strategies may include, but are not limited to: 

a.     School rules prohibiting bullying, harassment and intimidation and establishing appropriate consequences for those who engage in such acts; 
b.     Adequate adult supervision of outdoor areas, hallways, the lunchroom and other specific areas where bullying or teen dating violence are likely to occur; 
c.     Inclusion of grade-appropriate bullying and teen dating violence education and prevention curricula in kindergarten through high school, which may include instruction regarding building safe and positive school communities including developing healthy relationships and preventing dating violence as deemed appropriate for older students; 
d.     Individual interventions with the perpetrator, parents and school employees, and interventions with the bullied student, parents and school employees; 
e.     School-wide training related to safe school climate, which training may include Title IX/Sexual harassment training, Section 504/ADA Training, cultural diversity/multicultural education or other training in federal and state civil rights legislation or other topics relevant to safe school climate;
f.     Student peer training, education and support; and 
g.     Promotion of parent involvement in bullying prevention through individual or team participation in meetings, trainings and individual interventions; 
h.     Implementation of a positive behavioral interventions and supports process or another evidence-based model approach for safe school climate or for the prevention of bullying and teen dating violence, including any such program identified by the Department of Education; 
i.     Respectful responses to bullying and teen dating violence concerns raised by students, parents or staff; 
j.     Planned professional development programs addressing prevention and intervention strategies, which training may include school violence prevention, conflict resolution and prevention of bullying Appendix B and teen dating violence, with a focus in evidence based practices concerning same; 
k.    Use of peers to help ameliorate the plight of victims and include them in group activities; 
l.     Avoidance of sex-role stereotyping; 
m.     Continuing awareness and involvement on the part of school employees and parents with regards to prevention and intervention strategies; 
n.     Modeling by teachers of positive, respectful, and supportive behavior toward students; 
o.     Creating a school atmosphere of team spirit and collaboration that promotes appropriate social behavior by students in support of others; 
p.     Employing classroom strategies that instruct students how to work together in a collaborative and supportive atmosphere. 
q.     Culturally competent school-based curriculum focusing on social-emotional learning, self-awareness and self-regulation. 

D.     In addition to prevention and intervention strategies, administrators, teachers and other professional employees may find opportunities to educate students about bullying and help eliminate bullying behavior through class discussions, counseling, and reinforcement of socially-appropriate behavior. Administrators, teachers and other professional employees should intervene promptly whenever they observe mean-spirited student conduct, even if such conduct does not meet the formal definition of “bullying.” 

E.     Funding for the school-based bullying intervention and school climate improvement strategy may originate from public, private, federal or philanthropic sources. 

XI.     Improving School Climate 

Newtown has undertaken a major turn to focus our efforts on preventing behaviors that lead to unsafe environments for teaching and learning; students and adults. The goal is to set the conditions where such conditions will not support any mean-spiritedness or behaviors leading to more serious/harmful effects. A dislike of the unlike or animus toward one another within the “bricks and mortar” settings would be as abhorrent between the members of the school community as it would be if perpetrated by external individuals. Understanding the research that unkind behaviors and more serious fallout from such within the cyber/electronic media always begins in the face-to-face arena, this work extends to our approaches to dealing with cyber-attacks of any kind. 

XII.     Annual Notice and Training 

A.     Students, and parents or guardians of students shall be notified annually of the process by which students may make reports of bullying. 
B.     The Board shall provide for the inclusion of language in student codes of conduct concerning bullying. 
C.     At the beginning of each school year, each school shall provide all school employees with a written or electronic copy of the school district’s safe school climate plan and require that all school employees annually complete training on the identification, prevention and response to bullying as required by law. 

XIII.     School Climate Assessments 

On and after July 1, 2012, and biennially thereafter, the Board shall require each school in the district to complete an assessment using the school climate assessment instruments, including surveys, approved and disseminated by the Department of Education. The Board shall collect the school climate assessments for each school in the district and submit such assessments to the Department.  

Legal Reference:    Connecticut General Statutes
10-15b Access of parent or guardian to student’s records. Inspection and subpoena of school or student records.
10-222d Policy on bullying behavior as amended by PA 08-160, P.A. 11-232 and P.A. 14-172.
P.A. 06-115 An Act Concerning Bullying Policies in Schools and Notices Sent to Parents or Legal Guardians.
P.A. 11-232 An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws.
P.A. 13-3 An Act Concerning Gun Violence Protection and Safety 
P.A. 14-172 An Act Concerning Improving Employment Opportunities through Education and Ensuring Safe School Climates.
P.A. 14-234 An Act Concerning Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Plan approved:    July 18, 2017    
NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Newtown, Connecticut

 
Inspiring Each Student to Excel

3 Primrose St., Newtown, CT 06470
Phone: 203-426-7600
Nondiscrimination Policy

WCAG 2.0 Compliance