III – Q. Page 26 Threats/Harassment
It is the policy of McHenry High School District #156 to provide an educational environment free from bullying, hazing, harassment, and cyber-bullying. The School District is committed to protecting its students from any form of physical, verbal, or mental abuse.
Bullying is defined to include, but is not limited to, any aggressive or negative gesture, electronic communication, or written, verbal or physical act that places another student in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or property, or that has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student in such a way as to disrupt or interfere with the school’s educational mission or the education of any student. Bullying most often occurs when a student asserts physical or psychological power over, or is cruel to, another student perceived to be weaker. Such behavior may include but is not limited to: pushing, hitting, threatening, name-calling or other electronic, written, physical or verbal conduct of a belittling or browbeating nature.
Hazing is any act that subjects a student to electronic, written, physical, or verbal harassment, mental or physical discomfort, intimidation, embarrassment, ridicule, or demeaning activity committed by an individual student or group of students for the purpose of initiation, maintaining membership, or holding office in any organization, club, or athletic team.
Harassment includes any unwelcome electronic, written, physical, or verbal conduct, contact or communication that is motivated by or related to individual characteristics such as race, color, national origin, gender, economic status, disability, religion, religious affiliation or sexual orientation and that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment. Although harassment that creates a hostile environment may take many different forms, some examples include name calling and other derogatory comments, jokes, gestures or looks, posting or distribution of derogatory pictures, notes or graffiti, blocking, pushing, hitting or other forms of physical aggression. Where harassment is sexual, it may also include such conduct as persistent unwelcome attempts to interact with someone, spreading of rumors, aggressive physical contact such as kissing, touching or pulling at clothes in a sexual way.
Sexual Harassment also includes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors when such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of the receipt of educational or other school-related benefits, or such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for educational or other school-related decisions affecting that individual.
Cyber-bullying is a subset of bullying, hazing, and harassment. For purposes of this policy, cyber-bullying is defined as the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, pagers, cell phones, or other forms of information technology to deliberately bully, haze, harass, threaten, or intimidate someone. Cyber-bullying can include, but is not limited to, such acts as making threats, provocative insults, racial or ethnic slurs, sexting or demeaning remarks about one’s sexual orientation.
Sexting is electronically distributing or disseminating any material that depicts another minor nude or engaged in any sexual or lewd conduct. Electronic transfers include transfers via computer or any other electronic communication device, including cellular phones. It is a violation of Illinois law for a minor under the age of 18 to electronically distribute or disseminate any material that depicts another minor nude or engaged in any sexual or lewd conduct. The District prohibits students from imaging in sexting, including possessing sexually explicit photographs or images on any electronic device regardless of whether the depiction violates State law. Any cellular phone or other electronic device may be searched upon reasonable suspicion of sexting. All students involved in sexting may be disciplined. In all cases where sexting is suspected, school administrators will contact the police.
What exactly is bullying? “Bullying,” a term used interchangeably with peer harassment, means aggressive acts made with harmful intent, repeatedly inflicted by one or more students against another. Acts may be physical, verbal, indirect (such as social exclusion), or electronic (such as posting threatening messages to a website). What distinguishes bullying from mere aggression is that bullying is repetitive and involves a power imbalance between a socially powerful perpetrator and a socially weaker victim. Hence, bullies prey on students who are often marginalized in the wider school community because of actual or perceived differences such as obesity, disability, or sexual orientation.
Julie Sacks and Robert S. Salem, VICTIMS WITHOUT LEGAL REMEDIES: WHY KIDS NEED SCHOOLS TO DEVELOP COMPREHENSIVE ANTI-BULLYING POLICIES, Albany Law School Albany Law Review, , 72 Alb. L. Rev. 147, (2009).
Mental Health Am., Factsheet: Bullying: What to Do About It (2006), http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/bullying
Bullying has sometimes been seen as an inevitable part of school culture or a rite of passage for youth. However, recently attention to bullying has increased dramatically. School personnel and policy makers have recognized that the consequences of bullying can be significant, affecting not only those who are bullied, but also those who bully. Bullying behavior also seriously damages the school climate. Both bullies and victims are at high risk of suffering from serious health, safety, and educational risks. Victims of bullying report more difficulties sleeping, despondency, headaches, stomach pains, and other health symptoms than other children. Victims avoid school, which can lead to lower academic performance. They are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem, and are at increased risk of depression and suicide. Perpetrators are more likely to get into frequent fights, be injured in a fight, vandalize or steal property, drink alcohol, smoke, be truant from school, drop out of school, and carry a weapon.
Nancy Willard, School Response to Cyberbullying and Sexting: The Legal Challenges, Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, BYU Educ. & L. J. 75-125, (2011).
Cyberbullying is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” This harm comes in the form of “aggressive behavior that is persistent, intentional, and involves an imbalance of power or strength. Cyberbullying causes many adverse effects, especially in preteens and young teens, including depression, violence, and even suicide. In fact, one recent study found that victims of cyberbullying were twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who had not been cyberbullied.
Adrienne Morris, Cyberbullying in Texas: Reform Is Necessary to Keep the Virtual Playground Safe, Baylor Law Review Baylor Law Review, 63 Baylor L. Rev. 498-525, (2011).Sameer Hinduja & Justin W. Patchin, Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response, Cyberbullying Research Center 1 (2010), http://www.cyberbullying.us
There are many differences between traditional face to face bullying (hereinafter referred to as “traditional bullying”) and cyberbullying. For example, cyberbullying allows bullying to take place outside of school and on the weekends. Traditional bullying normally occurs in school, during school hours or immediately after school, when children are more likely to be interacting with one another. Conversely, cyberbullying can occur at any time due to the accessibility of the Internet and cell phones. Additionally, cyberbullying offers a level of anonymity that is not available in traditional bullying. The anonymity gives the cyberbully the confidence to commit mean or hurtful cyber acts (such as the acts mentioned above) that he or she would not possess in a traditional bullying situation.
In contrast to traditional bullying, which is concentrated in one class or school, cyber bulling typically deals with information placed on the Internet, which is widespread. Cyber bullies also have the advantage of choosing many different media through which to bully, such as email, texting, and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, which allow them to reach a wider audience. Neighboring schools and students can quickly learn about harmful jokes against another student. The wide dissemination of information allows millions of people to become bystanders to cyberbullying. These bystanders can, in turn, alert others to the information found on Facebook or MySpace, for example, or forward vicious texts or hurtful videos and pictures, making the cyberbullying viral. The many forms that cyberbullying can take, and the many places in which cyberbullying can occur, make it apparent that cyberbullying is not only prevalent among youths today, but will also continue to be a problem in the future. Bethan Noonan, DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAW: TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY: SOLUTIONS FOR MINIMIZING THE RISK TO CHILDREN: CRAFTING LEGISLATION TO PREVENT CYBERBULLYING: THE USE OF EDUCATION, REPORTING, AND THRESHOLD REQUIREMENTS, 27 J. Contemp. Health L. & Pol’y, 330-364 (2011).
See also, Sameer Hinduja & Justin W. Patchin, Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: What you need to know about online aggression, CYBERBULLYING RESEARCH CTR., http://www.cyberbullying.us/cyberbullying_fact-sheet.pdf; What is Cyberbullying?, NAT’L CRIME PREVENTION COUNCIL, http://www.ncpc.org/topics/cyberbullying/what-is-cyberbullying.
Students may be disciplined for acts of bullying, hazing, harassment, sexting, or cyber-bullying occurring on or off-campus and/or outside of school hours in the same manner they are otherwise subject to discipline for acts that violate School District policies and/or procedures when acts could: (1) affect the school climate or atmosphere; (2) affect the peace, health, safety, or welfare of students, teachers, or any other personnel, and/or (3) disrupt or interfere with school or school activities. District 156 will notify the parent of any student who commits an act of bullying and will attempt measures for early intervention to prevent any further behaviors of this nature. District 156 does reserve the right to make referrals for these students to appropriate mental health professionals. Consequences for such actions range from student conferences to suspension/expulsion.