ACEA-AP: Bullying

  • The West Fargo School District is committed to providing all learners with a safe and civil school environment in which all members are treated with dignity and respect.  Bullying of or by a learner or school staff member is against federal, state, and local policy and is not tolerated.  Bullying behavior can seriously disrupt the ability of the district to maintain a safe and civil environment, and the ability of learners to succeed.  Therefore, it is the policy of the state and the school district that learners and school staff members shall not engage in bullying behavior while on school property.

    Definitions

    For the purposes of this policy:

    • Bullying is defined in NDCC 15.1-19-17 as:
    1. Conduct that occurs in a public school, on school district premises, in a district owned or leased school bus or school vehicle, or at any public school or school district sanctioned or sponsored activity or event and which:
      1. Is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes with the learner’s educational opportunities or the staff member’s work opportunities;
      2. Places the learner or staff member in actual and reasonable fear of harm;
      3. Places the learner or staff member in actual and reasonable fear of damage to property of the learner or staff member; or
      4. Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school; or
    1. Conduct received by a learner or staff member while they are in a public school, on school district premises, in a district owned or leased school bus or school vehicle, or at any public school or school district sanctioned or sponsored activity or event and which:
      1. Is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes with the learner's educational opportunities or staff member’s work opportunities;
      2. Places the learner or staff member in actual and reasonable fear of harm;
      3. Places the learner or staff member in actual and reasonable fear of damage to property of the learner or staff member; or
      4. Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.
    1. Conduct received or sent by a learner or staff member through the use of an electronic device while the learner or staff member is outside a public school, off school district premises, and off school district owned or leased property and which:
      1. Places the learner or staff member in actual and reasonable fear of:
        1. Harm; or
        2. Damage to property of the learner or staff member;
      2. Is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive the conduct substantially interferes with the learner’s educational opportunities or staff member’s work opportunities or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.

    Conduct includes the use of technology or other electronic media (e.g. cyberbullying).

    • Electronic communication is defined in NDCC 12.1-17-07(5) as a 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.
    • Protected status are classifications/characteristics protected from discrimination by NDCC 14-02.4-01 and federal law.  The following statuses are protected: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability (physical or mental), and status with regard to marriage or public assistance.
    • School property is defined in NDCC 15.1-19-10(6)(b) as all land within the perimeter of the school site and all school buildings, structures, facilities, and school vehicles, whether owned or leased by a school district, and the site of any school-sponsored event or activity.
    • School-sanctioned activity is defined as an activity that:
      1. Is not part of the district’s curricular or extracurricular program; and
      2. Is established by a sponsor to serve in the absence of a district program; and
      3. Receives district support in multiple ways (i.e., not school facility use alone); and
      4. Sponsors of the activity have agreed to comply with this policy; and
      5. The District has officially recognized through board action as a school-sanctioned activity.
    • School-sponsored activity is an activity that the District has approved through policy or other board action for inclusion in the district’s extracurricular program and is controlled and funded primarily by the District.
    • School staff include all employees of the West Fargo School District, school volunteers, and sponsors of school-sanctioned activities.
    • True threat is a statement that, in light of the circumstances, a reasonable person would perceive as a serious expression of an intent to inflict harm.

    Prohibitions

    While on school property, a learner or school staff member may not:

    1. Engage in bullying.
    2. Engage in reprisal or retaliation against:
      1. A victim of bullying;
      2. An individual who witnesses an alleged act of bullying;
      3. An individual who reports an alleged act of bullying; or
      4. An individual who provides information/participates in an investigation about an alleged act of bullying.
    1. Knowingly file a false bullying report with the District.

    Reporting Procedures for Alleged Policy Violation

    1. Reporting requirements for school staff:  Any school staff member with knowledge or suspicion of a violation of this policy or who has received an oral or written report of a violation of this policy from a learner, community member, or anonymously shall contact the building principal or district staff member to inform them as soon as possible.  If the alleged violation implicates the building principal, the school staff member shall report it to the Superintendent. If the alleged violation implicates the Superintendent, the school staff member shall report it to the Board President.

    Should school administration determine that a school staff member knew of or suspected a violation of this policy and failed to report it in accordance with the procedure above, the staff member may be subject to disciplinary consequences or, for sponsors of school-sanctioned activities, other corrective measures.

    1. Reporting options for learners and community members:
      1. Learners and community members (including parents) may report known or suspected violations of this policy using any of the following methods:
        1. Completing a written complaint form (ACEA-E4). A complainant will have the option of including their name on this form or filing it anonymously.  The District will place the form in a variety of locations throughout the school and should inform learners and staff of these locations.  The form may be returned to any school staff member, filed in a school building’s main office, or placed in a designated drop box located in each school.
        2. Complete and submit an online complaint form.  A complainant will have the option of including their name on the form or submitting it anonymously.
        3. File an oral report with any school staff member.

    Single incidents and conflicts between two or more individuals do not automatically constitute bullying behavior. Districts should investigate each situation to determine if the alleged behavior meets this policy’s definition of bullying.  If the misconduct does not meet this policy’s definition of bullying, it may be addressed under other district disciplinary policies.

    Criteria a Reporter and Investigator Should Consider in Identifying Bullying Behavior:

    1. Targeted behavior that is meant to cause harm or embarrassment to another person or group.
    2. Behavior that is repeated or has a high likelihood of being repeated.
    3. Imbalance of Power (real or perceived).

    A complaint filed anonymously may limit the district’s ability to investigate and respond to the alleged violations.

    Documentation & Retention

    The District shall develop a form to report alleged violations of this policy.  The form should be completed by school staff when they:

    1. Initiate a report of an alleged violation of this policy; or
    2. Receive an oral report of an alleged violation of this policy.

    The form should be completed by an administrator when they:

    1. Initiate a report of an alleged violation of this policy; or
    2. Receive an oral report of an alleged violation of this policy.

    All written reports of an alleged violation of this policy received by the District shall be forwarded to the appropriate school administrator for investigation and retention.

    Report forms and all other documentation related to an investigation of an alleged violation of this policy shall be retained by the District for six years after a learner turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever is later.  

    Investigation Procedures

    School administrators (i.e., a principal, an assistant superintendent, or the Superintendent) or the Board President, if the Superintendent is implicated, are required to investigate violations of this policy (as prescribed under “Prohibitions”), when in receipt of actual notice of an alleged violation.  Actual notice of an alleged violation occurs when alleged bullying, reprisal, retaliation, or false reporting is reported using the applicable method(s) prescribed in the reporting section of this policy.

    Upon receipt of a report of an alleged policy violation, the designated administrator shall first determine if the alleged policy violation is based on a protected status - whether actual or perceived.  Reports involving a protected status shall be investigated in accordance with the district’s harassment/discrimination policy, including the timelines contained therein.

    In all other cases, the administration shall determine the level of investigation necessary based on the nature of the alleged violation of this policy after considering factors such as, but not limited to: the identity of the reporter and their relationship to the victim/alleged perpetrator; the ages of the parties involved; the detail, content, and context of the report; and whether or not this report is the first of its type filed against the alleged perpetrator.  Based on the level of investigation the administrator deems necessary, investigations may include any or all of the following steps or any other investigatory steps that the administrator deems necessary:

    1. Identification and collection of necessary and obtainable physical evidence (NOTE: In some cases, physical evidence may be unobtainable, e.g., a private social networking profile).
    2. Interviews with the complainant, the victim, and/or the alleged perpetrator.  At no time during an investigation under this policy shall the victim/ complainant be required to meet with the alleged perpetrator.
    3. Interviews with any identified witnesses.
    4. A review of any mitigating or extenuating circumstances.
    5. Final analysis and issuance of findings in writing to the victim and bully and, if applicable, implementation of victim protection measures and disciplinary measures under this or other applicable policies.

    Investigations shall be completed within no more than 60 days unless the administrator documents good cause for extending this deadline.  Such documentation should be sent to the victim and alleged perpetrator during the investigation.

    Reporting to Law Enforcement & Others Forms of Redress

    Law enforcement must be notified by a school administrator or Board President if there is reasonable suspicion that a bullying incident constituted a crime on or off school district property. Nothing in this policy shall prevent a victim/their family from seeking redress under applicable state and federal law.

    Disciplinary & Corrective Measures

    Learners who the District has found to have violated this policy shall be subject to disciplinary consequences and/or corrective measures.  When determining the appropriate response to violations of this policy, administration shall take into account the totality of circumstances surrounding the violation.  Measures that may be imposed include, but are not limited to:

    1. Require the learner to attend detention.
    2. Impose in- or out-of-school suspension or recommend expulsion. Due process procedures contained in the district’s suspension and expulsion policy shall be followed.
    3. Recommend alternative placement.  This recommendation shall be submitted to the Superintendent for approval or denial.  The Superintendent may approve such recommendations only if the learner has been given notice of the charges against them and an opportunity to respond. Alternative placement of special education students will be handled in accordance with applicable policy.
    4. Create a behavioral adjustment plan.
    5. Refer the learner to a school counselor.
    6. Hold a conference with the learner’s parent/guardian and teacher(s), and other applicable school staff.
    7. Modify the perpetrator’s schedule and take other appropriate measures (e.g., moving locker) to minimize contact with the victim.
    8. If applicable, contact the administrator of the website or social media platform on which the bullying occurred to report it.

    If the misconduct does not meet this policy’s definition of bullying, it may be addressed under other district disciplinary policies.

    If the perpetrator is a school staff member, the District shall take appropriate disciplinary action including, but not limited to: a reprimand, modification of duties (only if allowed by applicable policy, the negotiated agreement, and/or the individual’s contract), suspension, additional training or education, or a recommendation for termination/discharge in accordance with applicable law and/or policy.

    Victim Protection Strategies

    When the District confirms that a violation of this policy has occurred with a learner, it should notify the victim’s parents. In the case of either a learner or a staff member, the District shall implement victim protection strategies.  These strategies shall be developed on a case-by-case basis after administration has reviewed the totality of the circumstances surrounding the bullying incident(s) or other violations of this policy. Strategies may include, but not be limited to, the following:

    1. Additional training for all learners/staff regarding the implementation of this policy and/or bullying prevention.
    2. Notice to the victim’s teachers or colleagues and other staff to monitor the victim and their interaction with peers and/or the assignment of a staff member to escort the learner or staff member between classes or to their vehicle.
    3. Assignment of district staff to monitor, more frequently, areas in the school where bullying has occurred.
    4. Referral to counseling services for the victim and perpetrator.
    5. Modification of the perpetrator’s schedule or work location and other appropriate measures imposed on the perpetrator (not the victim) to minimize the perpetrator’s contact with the victim.

    Dissemination & Education

    The District shall review and revise this policy as it determines necessary.  A copy of this District bullying policy and any amendments must be filed with the Department of Public Instruction.

    The District shall place this policy in learner and staff handbooks and ensure that it is explained and discussed with its learners each school year.  The District shall also develop and implement bullying prevention programs for all learners and provide training for all staff. School administration may develop guidelines to assist learners and staff with identifying bullying conduct.

     

    Adopted: 04/09/12

    Reviewed: 10/12/15

    Revised: 10/12/15

    05/06/19

    10/08/19

    11/28/23