Preaload Image

Bullying and Harassment Policy

It is the policy of Learning Gate Community School and Hillsborough County Public Schools that all of its students and school employees have an educational setting that is safe, secure, and free from harassment and bullying of any kind.

The District and the Learning Gate Community School Board will not tolerate unlawful bullying and harassment of any type. Conduct that constitutes bullying and harassment, as defined herein, is prohibited

  1. During any education program or activity conducted by Learning Gate Community School
  2. During any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity
  3. Through the use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network of the school or district

This policy has been developed in compliance with Florida Statute 1006.147 on bullying and harassment.

Definitions

Bullying means the systematic and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is defined as any unwanted and repeated written, verbal or physical behavior, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by an adult or student that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation, or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s school performance or participation; and may involve: Teasing, threats, intimidation, stalking, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, physical violence, theft, sexual, religious or racial harassment, public humiliation, destruction of property.

Harassment

Harassment means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal or physical conduct directly against a student or school employee that

  1. Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to person or damage or personal property
  2. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits
  3. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school

Bullying and Harassment also encompass:

  1. Retaliation against a student or school employee any another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment
  2. Perpetuation of conduct listed in the definition of bullying and/or harassment by an individual or a group with intent to demean, dehumanize embarrass, or cause emotional or physical harm to a student or a school employee by;
    1. Incitement or coercion
    2. Accessing or knowingly and willingly causing or providing access to data or computer software through a computer, computer system, or computer network within the scope of the school/district school system
    3. Acting in a manner that has an effect substantially similar to the effect of bullying or harassment

Harassment or Bullying also means electronically transmitted acts (i.e., internet, e-mail, cellular telephone, personal digital assistance (PDA), or wireless hand-held device that a student or a group of students exhibits toward another particular student, and the behavior both causes mental and physical harm to the other student and is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for the other student.

Cyberstalking means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.

Expected Behavior

LGCS expects students to conduct themselves in keeping with their levels of development, maturity, and demonstrated capabilities with a proper regard for the rights and welfare of other students and school staff, the educational purpose underlying all school activities, and the care of school facilities and equipment.

Such behavior is essential in maintaining an environment that provides an education that enables each student to excel as a successful and responsible person.

The standards for student behavior shall be set cooperatively through interaction among students, parents/guardians, staff and community members, producing an atmosphere that encourages students to grow in self-discipline. The development of such an atmosphere requires respect for self and others as well as for School and community property on the part of students, staff, and community members. School administrators, faculty, staff, and volunteers serve as role models for students and are expected to demonstrate appropriate behavior, to treat others with civility and respect, and to refuse to tolerate harassment or bullying.

Students are expected to respect the person, property, and rights of others; to obey constituted authority; and to respond to those who hold that authority.

The School shall provide for appropriate recognition and positive reinforcement for good conduct, self-discipline, good citizenship, and academic success.

Consequences

Consequences and appropriate remedial action for students who commit acts of bullying or harassment or who are found to have falsely accused another as a means of bullying or harassment may range from positive behavioral interventions up to and including suspension or expulsion as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.

Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a school employee found to have committed an act of bullying or harassment or found to have falsely accused another as a means of bullying or harassment shall include discipline in accordance with School policies, and administrative procedures. Egregious acts of harassment by a certified educator may result in a sanction against the educator’s State-issued certificate. (See the Principles of Professional Conduct of the Education Profession in Florida – F.A.C. 6B-1006)

Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a visitor or volunteer found to have committed an act of bullying or harassment or found to have falsely accused another as a means of bullying or harassment shall be determined by the school administrator after consideration of the nature and circumstances of the act, including reports to appropriate law enforcement officials.

Procedure for Reporting

Any student or student’s parent/guardian who believes the student has been or is the victim of bullying or harassment should immediately report the situation to the principal. The student may also report concerns to teachers and other school staff who will be responsible for notifying the Principal. Complaints against the principal should be filed with the Learning Gate Community School Board of Directors at board@learninggate.org.

All school employees are required to report alleged violations of this policy to the principal or as described above. All other members of the school community, including students, parents, volunteers, and visitors are encouraged to report any act that may be a violation of this policy to the principal or as described above.

Written and oral complaints shall be considered official reports. Complaints may be made anonymously, but formal disciplinary action may not be based solely on the basis of an anonymous complaint.

The principal shall establish and prominently publicize to students, staff, volunteers, and parents the procedure for reporting bullying and how such a report will be acted upon. A victim of bullying and/or harassment, anyone who witnessed the act, and anyone who has credible information that an act of bullying and/or harassment has taken place may file a report.

Procedure for Investigation

The investigation of a reported act of bullying or harassment is deemed to be a school-related activity and begins with a report of such an act. All complaints about bullying and/or harassment that may violate this policy shall be promptly investigated by an individual, designated by the principal, who is trained in investigative procedures. Documented interviews of the victim, alleged perpetrator, and witnesses shall be conducted privately and shall be confidential. The investigator shall collect and evaluate the facts including but not limited to:

  1. The nature of the behavior
  2. How often the conduct occurred
  3. Whether there were past incidents or past continuing patterns of behavior
  4. The relationship between the parties involved
  5. The characteristics of the parties involved
  6. The identity of the alleged perpetrator, including whether the individual was in a position of power over the individual allegedly subjected to bullying or harassment
  7. The number of alleged bullies/harassers
  8. The age of the alleged bully/harasser
  9. Where the bullying and/or harassment occurred
  10. Whether there have been other incidents in the school involving the same or other students
  11. Whether the conduct adversely affected the student’s education or educational environment
  12. The context in which the alleged incidents occurred

Whether a particular action or incident constitutes a violation of the policy requires a determination based on all the facts and surrounding circumstances and shall include a recommendation of remedial steps necessary to stop the bullying and/or harassing behavior and a written report to the principal.

A maximum of ten school days shall be the limit for the initial filing of incidents and completion of the investigative procedural steps. The highest level of confidentiality possible shall be provided regarding the submission of a complaint or a report of bullying and/or harassment and for the investigative procedures that are employed.

The physical location or time of access of a computer-related incident cannot be raised as a defense in any disciplinary action initiated pursuant to this policy.

Scope

The investigator will provide a report on the results of the investigation with recommendations for the principal to make a determination if an act of bullying or harassment falls within the scope of School’s authority. If the action is within the scope of the School, School procedures for investigating bullying and/or harassment shall be followed. If the action is outside the scope of the School and believed to be a criminal act, the action shall be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency. If the action is outside the scope of the School and believed not a criminal act, the principal shall inform parents/guardians of all minor parties.

Parent Notification

The principal or principal designee shall report the occurrence of an incident of bullying as defined by school policy to the parent/guardian of all students known to be involved in the incident on the same day an investigation of the incident has been initiated. Notification shall be by telephone, personal conference, and/or in writing by Learning Gate email and shall be consistent with the student privacy rights under applicable provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). The notice shall advise the individuals involved of their respective due process rights including the right to appeal any resulting determination or action to the State Board of Education.

According to the level of infraction, the victim’s parents will also be notified by telephone and/or in writing of actions being taken to protect the child. The frequency of notification will depend on the seriousness of the bullying or harassment incident.

If the bullying incident results in the perpetrator being charged with a crime, the principal shall inform the parent/guardian of the identified victim involved in the bullying incident about the Unsafe Schools Choice Option (No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Title IX, Part E, Subpart 2, Section 932) that states:

“A student attending a persistently dangerous public elementary school or secondary school, as determined by the State in consultation with a representative sample of local educational agencies, or a student who becomes a victim of a violent criminal offense, as determined by State law, while in or on the grounds of a public elementary or secondary school that the student attends, be allowed to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary school within the local educational agency, including a public charter school.”

Upon the completion of the investigation and if criminal charges are to be pursued against the perpetrator, the appropriate law enforcement agencies shall be notified by telephone and/or in writing.

Counseling Referral

The School shall provide a referral procedure for intervening when bullying or harassment is suspected or when a bullying incident is reported. The procedure will include:

  1. A process by which the teacher or parent may request informal consultation with school staff (e.g., school counselor, school psychologist, etc.) to determine the severity of concern and appropriate steps to address the concern
  2. A referral process to provide professional assistance or services that may include school intervention with a problem-solving focus to consider appropriate services (parent/guardian involvement required) or, if a formal discipline report or formal complaint is issued, a student referral for such school intervention as counseling support or other action (parent/guardian involvement required)
  3. A school-based action to address intervention and assistance as determined appropriate by the intervention team that includes
    1. counseling and support to address the needs of the victim(s) of bullying or harassment.
    2. interventions to address the behavior of students who bully and harass others (e.g., empathy training, anger management, etc.).
    3. intervention which includes assistance and support for parents as may be deemed necessary or appropriate.

Data Report

The School will utilize Florida’s School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting (SESIR) Statewide Report on School Safety and Discipline Data as prescribed. If a bullying and/or harassment incident occurs it will be reported in SESIR, coded appropriately using the relevant incident code and the related element code. Discipline and referral data will be recorded in Student Discipline/Referral Action Report and Automated Student Information System. In a separate section, the School shall include each reported incident of bullying or harassment that does not meet the criteria of a prohibited act under this policy with recommendations regarding such incidents.

The District will provide bullying incident, discipline, and referral data to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) in the format requested, through Survey 5 from Education Information and Accountability Services, and at designated dates provided by the Department.

Training and Instruction

Students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers shall be provided instruction at least annually on the School’s policy and administrative procedures regarding bullying and harassment. The instruction shall include evidence-based methods of preventing bullying and harassment as well as information about how to effectively identify and respond to bullying in schools. Instruction regarding bullying, harassment, and the School’s violence prevention and school safety efforts shall be integrated into School’s curriculum using the appropriate grade levels.

Immunity

A school employee, school volunteer, students, parent/guardian, or other persons who promptly reports in good faith an act of bullying or harassment to the appropriate school official and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures set forth in the school’s policy is immune from a cause of action for damages arising out of the reporting itself or any failure to remedy the reported incident.

Submission of a good faith complaint to report bullying or harassment will not affect the complainant or reporter’s future employment, grades, learning or working environment, or work assignments. Such immunity from liability shall not apply to an employee, student, or volunteer determined to have made an intentionally false report about harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying.

Bullying Procedure

  • Learning Gate Community School has drop boxes at both of the school’s locations in order to provide an anonymous system for reporting bullying or harassment. At the Hanna Campus the boxes can be found in Heron Hall and the front office. At the Lutz Lake Campus, the boxes will be located in the front office. A bullying reporting form is located at www.learninggate.org and hard copies of the reporting form will be available in the vicinity of the boxes. Bullying Report forms can be given directly to a staff member, emailed or placed in one of the box.
  • While Learning Gate Community School is a Hillsborough County Public Charter School, using the SDHC online bullying and reporting form will result in a delay of school notification. The information submitted online is not sent directly to the charter school, but is sent to the Charter Office and then sent to the school causing a delay in the investigation.
  • When a bullying or harassment case has been reported, parents of all students involved will be notified in writing that an investigation is being done. Precautions will be put in place at the onset of an investigation to protect all involved and may include but not limited to: moving seats, assigning a buddy or assigning an adult advocate on campus. All special area teachers and appropriate staff members will be informed of the procedures put in place while an investigation is being conducted.
  • Every alleged incident will be investigated within 10 school days of notification of the alleged incident. Notification shall be by telephone, personal conference, and/or in writing by Learning Gate email and shall be consistent with the student privacy rights under applicable provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). A record is kept of all investigations.
  • All incidents of bullying will be entered into Hillsborough County School Districts discipline mainframe at their conclusion. This information will available to any Hillsborough County school that a student is enrolled in.
  • Learning Gate has established the LG53, which is a program designed to teach and model behaviors to help students be the best they can. The LG53 prompts students to be an upstander not a bystander and to immediately report incidents of bullying and harassment.
  • The Learning Gate guidance counselor provides quarterly presentations to all students concerning various bullying issues and resolution strategies.

During the month of October, National Bullying Awareness Month, Learning Gate will provide lessons and activities that will encourage students to:

  • clearly identify bullying vs. bad behavior
  • clearly tell a bully(ies) to stop.
  • not ignore the incident, instead, report the incident to someone at school.
  • tell your parent(s)/guardian(s).
  • report a bullying situation if the bullying behavior continues after being told to stop
  • understand the difference between an Upstander and a Bystander