For Immediate Release - January 03, 2011

Over 99 Percent of Districts Meet December 31st Deadline for Submitting Local Anti-Bullying Plans

MALDEN - The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that over 99 percent of all public school districts and charter schools have met the December 31, 2010 deadline to submit their local bullying prevention and intervention plans to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new anti-bullying law signed by Governor Deval Patrick in May requires all districts to prepare local plans in collaboration with school administrators and law enforcement officials to ensure all are prepared to meet the new requirements laid out in the legislation.

"Superintendents and principals statewide are addressing this issue head on and are taking their responsibilities under the new law seriously," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "The Department will review the local plans to ensure that they contain the elements required by statute."

"With a clear majority of school districts, charter schools and collaboratives submitting a bullying prevention and intervention plan on time, we are making good progress on implementing the new anti-bullying law," said Representative Martha M. Walz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and chief author of the anti-bullying legislation. "The important work of changing school climates remains ahead of us. The true success of these plans will be measured in how well schools successfully prevent bullying."

The new bullying prevention and intervention law, M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37O, as added by Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010), requires each school district, charter school, non-public school, Department-approved private special education school, and collaborative school to create a bullying prevention and intervention plan that prohibits bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation. Public school districts, charter schools, Department-approved private special education schools, and collaborative schools were required to submit their plans to the Department by the December 31 deadline.

In all, 390 out of 393 public school districts and charter schools in Massachusetts (99.2%) have submitted a copy of their bullying prevention and intervention plans to the Department. In addition to the public school districts and charter schools, plans were submitted by 28 out of 28 collaboratives and 115 out of 118 Department-approved private special education schools.

The Department developed a model bullying prevention and intervention plan, http://www.doe.mass.edu/bullying/ModelPlan.pdf, as a blueprint for schools/districts in developing their own plans. The model plan was created in consultation with representatives of the Department of Public Health, the Department of Mental Health, the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, the Massachusetts District Attorneys' Association, the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, principals and other school personnel, and parent and advocacy organizations.

A Department checklist, http://www.doe.mass.edu/bullying/LocalPlan.pdf, was provided to schools/districts to assist in ensuring the inclusion in the plan of all elements required by the new law. Among the required elements of the plan are: (1) descriptions of and statements prohibiting bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation; (2) clear procedures for students, staff, parents, guardians and others to report bullying or retaliation; (3) clear procedures for promptly responding to and investigating reports of bullying or retaliation; (4) the range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against an aggressor for bullying or retaliation; (5) procedures consistent with state and federal law for promptly notifying the parents or guardians of a target and an aggressor; and (6) a provision for ongoing professional development to build the skills of all staff members.

Districts and schools that have yet to submit their plans will be notified in writing today by the Department that they are not in compliance with the deadline in the law. Those districts and schools will be required to inform the Department as to where they are in the process of developing a local plan and when they expect to submit the plan.

The following public school districts, charter schools, and Department-approved private special education schools did not submit a plan by the December 31 st deadline:

Public school districts (2): Gosnold Public School District; Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science

Charter schools (1): Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence

Department-approved private special education schools (3): Metro South Academy School; Children's Study Home (Mill Pond School); Whitney Academy School

Local plans were developed in consultation with teachers, school staff, professional support personnel, school volunteers, administrators, community representatives, local law enforcement agencies, students, parents, and guardians. Plans must be updated at least biennially. Schools/districts must provide to all school staff annual written notice of the plan, and faculty and staff at each school shall be trained annually on the plan applicable to the school. Schools/districts must also provide to students and parents or guardians annual written notice of relevant student-related sections of the plan in age-appropriate terms and in the languages that are most prevalent among the students, parents, or guardians.

The new law directs the Department to "periodically review" public school districts, charter schools, approved day or residential special education schools, and collaborative schools to determine compliance with the Act. The Department will do that through its Coordinated Program Review process. Additionally, the Department will address complaints on non-compliance with the bullying prevention and intervention law through its Problem Resolution System.

For additional resources on bullying prevention and intervention, visit the Department's website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/bullying/.