Policy ACC: Harassment Prevention; Standards of Conduct

The Pelham School District (the “District”) is committed to providing a safe learning and working environment where all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect. To that end, the District aims to clarify for all members of the school community not only behavior that is prohibited under the law (Section A), but also expectations of a higher standard of appropriate behavior (Section B) along with established structures and procedures for protecting the rights of all students and employees.

A. Protected Class Harassment Prevention

The District prohibits harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin (ancestry), age (employment only), disability, criminal record, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information (employment only), military service (employment only) or any other legally protected classification. Unlawful harassment by employees, students, and third parties is strictly prohibited, and preventing and remedying such harassment in the School is essential to ensuring a safe, nondiscriminatory environment in which students can learn and employees can work.

Prohibited Conduct

Harassment on the basis of a protected class is a form of behavior that adversely affects the employment and/or educational environment. State and federal law prohibit such behavior. The District condemns and prohibits such unlawful behavior of any student, applicant, employee or visitor.

Because the District takes allegations of harassment seriously, it will respond promptly to complaints of harassment and, where it is determined inappropriate conduct has occurred, it will act promptly to address the conduct and impose corrective action as necessary, including disciplinary action when appropriate.

With respect to employment, it is against the policy of the District for any individual to harass another individual on the basis of a protected class when:

  • submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either implicitly or explicitly a term or condition of employment or a basis for employment decisions; or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance by creating a hostile, humiliating, or offensive work environment.

It is also against the policy of the District for an individual to engage in any inappropriate or unprofessional conduct that impacts the workplace. (See Section B below.)

With respect to student education, it is against the policy of the District for any individual to harass another individual on the basis of a protected class when:

  • rejection of such conduct is made either implicitly or explicitly a term or condition of a student’s education or is a basis for education-related decisions; or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's educational performance by creating a hostile, humiliating, or offensive work environment.

It is also against the policy of the District for an individual to engage in any inappropriate or unprofessional conduct that impacts the educational environment. (See Section B below.)

Examples of Conduct That May Constitute Harassment

While it is not possible to list all of the circumstances that may constitute unlawful harassment, depending upon the totality of the circumstances, including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness, the following is a list of situations that could constitute unlawful harassment:

  • verbal abuse, comments, jokes, teasing, threats or the use of words that degrade a person because of their protected class;
  • obscene or suggestive gestures or sounds intended to relate to a person’s protected class;
  • posting or distributing letters, notes, objects, pictures, cartoons or other materials that degrade a person because of their protected class;
  • sending or posting offensive or discriminatory messages or materials related to an individual’s protected class through the use of electronic communications (e.g., internal and external electronic mail, voicemail, facsimile, and Internet sites, including social media sites); and
  • condoning harassment on the basis of a person’s protected class.

Application of Policy:

This policy applies to reported behavior that occurs in the following locations and circumstances:

      • in the School building or on any School premises during school hours;
      • on any bus or other School vehicle as part of any School activity;
      • at any bus stop;
      • during any School-sponsored activity or extracurricular activity;
      • at any time or place when the individual is subject to the authority of School personnel;
      • through electronic means, such as through the Internet (e.g., social media, personal websites, etc.), emailing, or text messaging; and
      • any location if the conduct impacts the work/educational environment of a student or staff member.

Harassment may occur between or among fellow students, co-workers, supervisors and subordinates, employees and students, or non-employees, including visitors, and employees or students. The victim does not have to be the person at whom the unwelcome harassment is directed. The victim may be someone who is affected by the harassing conduct, even when it is directed toward another person if the conduct creates a hostile working or learning environment for the victim.

Reporting Prohibited Conduct

Any student, parent, or other individual who believes that a student has been a victim of discrimination or harassment, or who has witnessed a violation of this policy should immediately report it to the School Principal (the “Principal”) and file a formal written complaint.

Any employee, applicant for employment, or individual who has been a victim of discrimination or harassment, or who has witnessed a violation of this policy should immediately report it to the Principal. The Principal can be reached at 45 Amherst Road, Pelham. The Principal’s phone number is (413) 362-1100.

  1. the complaint involves the Principal, it should be filed with the District Superintendent. The Superintendent can be reached at 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst. The Superintendent’s phone number is (413) 362-1810.
Any allegations involving the Superintendent should be filed with the School Committee. The School Committee Chair can be reached at 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst. For the purposes of reporting prohibited conduct, the Chair can be reached through the School’s main number at (413) 362-1100.
 
Although individuals are encouraged to follow the reporting procedures outlined above, students and parents may report an allegation of harassment to anyone. Staff members may report allegations to anyone with authority over the person who is believed to have violated the policy.

Individuals who believe they have been subject to harassment or witnessed harassment are strongly encouraged to report the incident as soon as possible. This ensures that any allegation of inappropriate conduct can be investigated and addressed in a timely manner. It is also more difficult to investigate an allegation the further back in time it occurred.

State and Federal Agencies

There are state and federal agencies that enforce anti-discrimination laws. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforce the law with respect to employment-related claims. The MCAD can be reached at 436 Dwight Street, Springfield. The EEOC can be reached at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, Room 475, Boston. The EEOC’s phone number is (617) 565-3200.

The MCAD also enforces the state student anti-discrimination law. The federal student anti-discrimination laws are enforced by the Office for Civil Rights. OCR can be reached at John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse, 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor, Suite 900, Boston. OCR’s phone number is (617) 289-0111.

B. Higher Standard of Conduct

Beyond Section A above regarding unlawful harassment, the District seeks to establish a higher standard of appropriate behavior to ensure the physical, social, and emotional safety and well-being of students and employees. This section of the policy clarifies that there is conduct that, although not unlawful harassment based on protected class status, could still interfere with work or academic performance by creating an environment that is not conducive to professional, academic and/or social-emotional success for students or employees. Such behavior also constitutes a violation of this policy. Nothing in Section A of this policy will preclude the District from taking disciplinary action against an individual when the evidence does not establish unlawful discrimination or harassment, but creates a “hostile” work or educational environment nonetheless. Violations of the higher standard of conduct are investigated by the Principal or other member of the administration. Appropriate corrective action, including disciplinary action, will be imposed when deemed appropriate.

Reports of violations of this policy will remain as confidential as possible and will not be disclosed unless required by law.

The Superintendent, as necessary, may develop guidelines for the implementation of this policy. If the Superintendent does develop such guidelines, they shall be published in the appropriate handbooks.

C. Consequences, Remedies, and Prevention

The District Human Resources Department shall be responsible for investigating employment-related claims of harassment based on protected class status. Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, consistent with the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement, employment agreement, District policy or applicable law.
 
The School administration shall be responsible for investigating student-related claims of harassment based on protected class status. Consequences for students will be determined by the Principal, as appropriate, and will depend upon the nature and severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The District Human Resources Department and School administration will share responsibility for investigating claims of harassment based on protected class status against those other than students or staff. Others, such as volunteers or visitors, who violate this policy may be directed to leave school property, be prohibited from returning to school property and/or be reported to law enforcement, as appropriate. The Principal or administrator will take steps to eliminate or limit future interaction on District property or through electronic communications via District email between third parties in violation of this policy and the victim(s).

When appropriate, administrators shall take interim measures during the investigation of a harassment report to protect the alleged subject of the discrimination or harassment from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. The District will not tolerate adverse treatment of any student or employee because they report harassment or discrimination. Acts of retaliation are a violation of this policy. In cases involving possible criminal conduct, administrators shall determine whether law enforcement officials should be notified.

D. Individual Responsibilities

Ultimately, each individual is personally responsible for:

  • ensuring that his/her conduct does not harass any other individual in a manner that impacts the work or educational environment of another individual;
  • cooperating in any investigation of alleged harassment by providing any information they possess concerning the matter being investigated;
  • actively participating in efforts to prevent and eliminate harassment and to maintain a work and educational environment free from such harassment; and
  • ensuring that an employee who files a good-faith harassment claim or cooperates in an investigation may do so without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
Cross-Reference: Policy GBAA: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Policy JICH: Student-to-Student Harassment
Policy JICK: Sexual Harassment of Students

 

LEGAL REFERENCE: G.L. c. 151B

G.L. c. 151C
Titles VI, VII, IX
603 CMR 26.00, et seq.
 
Pelham Voted to Approve: 12/5/2019
Effective Date for Pelham School District: 12/5/2019