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HOUSE DOCKET, NO.                 FILED ON: 10/17/2013

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 3721

 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

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In the Year Two Thousand Thirteen

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An Act relative to bullying in schools.
 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1. Subsection (d) of section 37O of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “retaliation”, in line 89, the following words:- “, including procedures for collecting, maintaining and reporting bullying incident data required under subsection (k)”.

              SECTION 2. Said subsection (d) of said section 37O of said chapter 71, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out the third paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-

              Each plan shall include a statement recognizing that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of bullying, harassment, or teasing based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including but not limited to race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics. The plan shall include specific steps the district will take to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in the school community, and provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing. A school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school may establish separate discrimination or harassment policies that include these or other categories of students. Nothing in this section shall alter the obligations of a school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school or collaborative school to remediate any discrimination or harassment based on a person's membership in a legally protected category under local, state or federal law.

              SECTION 3. Subsection (g) of said section 37O of said chapter 71, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “retaliation”, in line 192, the following:- “; and (v) inform the parents or guardians of the victim about the department’s problem resolution system and the process for seeking assistance or filing a claim through the problem resolution system”. 

              SECTION 4. Said section 37O of said chapter 71, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after subsection (j) the following subsections:-

              (k) Each school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall annually report bullying incident data to the department. Such data shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the number of reported allegations of bullying or retaliation; (ii) the number and nature of substantiated incidents of bullying or retaliation; (iii) the number of students disciplined for engaging in bullying or retaliation; and (iv) any other information as may be required by the department. Bullying incident data shall be annually reported to the department in a form and manner prescribed by the department,  in consultation with the attorney general, provided that the department may use existing data collection and reporting mechanisms to collect such information from school districts. The department shall analyze the bullying incident data and shall publish an annual report containing aggregate, statewide information on the frequency and nature of bullying in schools. The department shall file such annual report with the attorney general and with the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives who shall forward the same to the chairs of the joint committee on education, the chairs of the joint committee on the judiciary, and the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means.

              (l) The department shall develop a student survey to assess school climate and the prevalence, nature and severity of bullying in schools. The student survey shall also assist in assessing the effectiveness of bullying prevention curricula and instruction developed and administered under subsection (c) of section 37O of chapter 71. The survey shall be administered by each school district, charter school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school at least once every three years. The survey shall be designed to protect student privacy and allow for anonymous participation by students.

              The completed surveys shall be collected by the school official identified in the plan as responsible for receiving reports of bullying or retaliation, who shall review the student surveys in order to identify patterns of bullying and retaliation and to evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s bullying prevention and intervention efforts. All completed surveys shall be forwarded to the department. The department shall collect and analyze the student survey data in order to compare the survey results with the bullying incident data reported under subsection (k), identify  long-term trends and areas of improvement, and monitor bullying prevention efforts in schools over time.

              SECTION 5. The department of elementary and secondary education shall develop the student survey required under section 4 of this act within 12 months of the effective date of this act.

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