The Hanover Public Schools is committed to creating a safe, caring, respectful learning environment for all students and strictly enforces a prohibition against bullying including without limitation, cyberbullying, of any of its students by anyone and also strictly enforces a prohibition against retaliation of any person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying. Acts of bullying and cyber-bullying are prohibited on school grounds, property immediately adjacent to school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program whether on or off school grounds, at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by the school district; or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by the school district and at a location, activity, function or program that is not school-related, or through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased or used by the school district, if the acts create a hostile environment at school for the target(s), infringes on the rights of the target(s) at school or materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying also is prohibited.
On Monday, May 3, 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed the much anticipated anti-bullying bill into law. The bill was passed unanimously by both the Senate and House of Representatives after it emerged from a joint conference committee. Massachusetts is now the forty-second state in the country to have anti-bullying legislation. The law is aimed at addressing the issue of bullying and cyber-bullying in schools. While Massachusetts lawmakers have been considering versions of this bill for quite some time, two recent bullying-related suicides in South Hadley and Springfield caused this legislation to receive top priority.
The law, which includes strict mandates for reporting all suspected incidents of bullying and cyber-bullying, is being heralded as one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country. Where school districts up until now have not had a clear blue print to follow when incidents of bullying and cyber-bullying were suspected, this new law will guide school districts in the identification, investigation and response to incidents as they arise. With the vast increase in the use of technology and social networking by students, much of which occurs off school grounds during non-school hours, administrators have rightly questioned the extent to which a school district has a right, and indeed an obligation, to intervene. This new law provides much needed guidance.