[August 22, 2013] The Massachusetts Bullying Prevention Law, M.G.L. c. 71, sec. 37O, has been amended. The amendments, which are nominally effective July 1, 2013, expand the protections afforded to students to include bullying by school staff.
Specifically, the definition of “bullying” has been expanded to include the repeated acts of not only one or more students, but also “a member of a school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional . . .”
Similarly, the definition of “perpetrator” has been amended to include, in addition to a student, “. . . a member of a school staff including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional who engages in bullying or retaliation.”
Finally, subsection (d) of the law, which refers to the requisite bullying prevention and intervention plan, has been revised to provide that the plan “. . . shall apply to students and members of a school staff, including, but not limited to, educators, administrators, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to an extracurricular activity and paraprofessionals.”
In light of these amendments, we recommend that each school:
- Revise the anti-bullying policies in its student and employee handbooks to incorporate these new mandates as well as to update the policies for recent best practices;
- Revise the bullying prevention and intervention plan on its website to incorporate these new mandates as well as to update the plan for recent best practices; and
- Provide educational sessions for employees regarding this significant change in the law.
Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Firm’s Education Practice Group if you have any questions about the Massachusetts Bullying Prevention Law or its requirements.