(WWLP) - The 2010 Massachusetts bullying law, titled "An act relative to bullying in schools" was signed by Governor Deval Patrick on May 3, 2010. The law came largely as a reaction to the high-profile suicide deaths of two Western Massachusetts school children; Carl Walker Hoover of Springfield and Phoebe Prince of South Hadley. Both were allegedly bullied in school.
Under the law, bullying is prohibited:
- On school grounds, or grounds that have to do with school activities, such as bus stops and on field trips. Bullying is also prohibited through the use of school computers and other electronic devices.
- Prohibited outside of school and in non-school-related activities or with non-school owned electronic devices, provided that the bullying creates a hostile atmosphere in school-related settings or disrupts the learning process.
- The law also adds cyber-bullying into harassment law.
Among other requirements, the law places the following mandates on the schools:
- School staff members are required to report any bullying activity they witness, complaints must be investigated.
- Schools are required to formulate an anti-bullying plan.
- Anti-bullying plans must be made available to the public.
- The state will check schools to ensure compliance.
- Student handbooks will have to explain bullying prevention plan in way students will understand.
- Bullying prevention training will have to be given in schools.
The law also provides the following definitions:
- "Bullying" is defined as: The repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying.
- "Cyber bullying" is defined as: “Cyber-bullying”, bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communications. Cyber-bullying shall also include (i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or (ii) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying. Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying.
Source: Massachusetts Legislature. Click here to read the bill in its entirety.