Statement on Bullying Prevention and the Investigative Process
At Princeton Schools, we take student reports of violence and/or harassment very seriously. Our top priority is to do what is best for our students, putting their safety first and ensuring that all students feel safe at school. We have a well-defined system of investigating all reports and a policy to guide us on the process. We know and understand that we cannot control what happens to our students outside of school hours. However, we do have resources on site to help students and families address issues that are impacting student learning and resources to help families struggling with challenging situations.
How we put safety first with students
Every situation that is reported has many different nuances that impact the actions we take. This is why an investigation takes place. After the investigation is complete, the District takes action that is reasonably calculated to prevent any inappropriate behavior from happening again. The District does not tolerate bullying or any other inappropriate conduct that has the potential to interfere with the learning environment or the ability of students to participate fully in school sponsored events and activities.
What we do within an investigation
There are cameras in our schools and on our buses that keep watch and document and inform us on how our kids are acting in our buildings and on our buses. We look at that video footage when a student alleges that something has happened at school or on the bus. Administrators also interview all students that are believed to have been involved in a situation. Administrators also ask to see cell phones, text messages, email messages, social media messages and photographs. Additionally, administrators talk to students individually in a private setting about what has happened. After this process, the administrators then confer with one another, decide what action should be taken and whether we should contact parents, the police department, or bring in other community supports. Appropriate disciplinary actions are considered based on the severity of the situation and upon the evidence that has been gathered.
Safety and respect comes first
In addition to imposing discipline, school officials take proactive measures to ensure that any students who have been victimized feel safe and are not further impacted. We want school to be a positive experience for every student. We want students to feel respected, listened to and heard. We want students to feel welcome and confident in knowing that inappropriate behavior that occurs in school will be addressed. In some cases, we rearrange schedules to avoid future confrontations, schedule check-ins with students on a frequent basis, assign extra staff to increase the level of supervision, educate students on the harm that can occur from bullying. We give students advice on how to handle confrontational issues and report bullying that occurs at school, on the bus or at a school sponsored event or activity. We address every student report of violence, abuse or maltreatment when we are made aware of it. Out of respect for the laws of student privacy, we are not allowed to share what we have done within an investigation. Unfortunately, this means that the public may only be able to see a single side of a particular situation.
In many situations we recommend outside resources around counseling or mental health issues to address any underlying issues that students may be having. We also consult with law enforcement and with local service agencies that can provide assistance with counseling, public health, social work and financial resources, depending on the situation. We look at the whole child. Again, we do not share this with the public out of respect for our students and in compliance with data privacy laws.
Some things are out of our control
The district does not have the authority to address matters that have not happened at school and unfortunately, we do not have the resources to protect students from conduct that occurs off school premises, outside a school function or activity, or does not involve school transportation. That being said, it is our job as a community to address and eradicate threats of violence, abuse or neglect. Within our schools we will do everything we can to address how a situation impacts our students at school by checking in with them, meeting with parents, making adjustments to school schedules, and providing families with resources.
We work at prevention and education
Bullying prevention is at the core of our curriculum and begins in preschool and goes through high school. In fact, as this letter is being written, there is an all-day bullying prevention presentation at the High School, attended by all our high school students. Our sixth-grade students attended the same symposium yesterday, and our seventh and eighth grade students will have a similar opportunity later in February. We adapt our policies and procedures as our society changes and as we reflect upon our procedures and behavior after every incident occurs. These conversations always start with “how will this impact our students” and “what is best for our kids?” We work hard to do everything in our power to help kids feel safe, welcome and comfortable and to ensure that we provide an environment that is conducive to learning. Please know that there are many, many things being done around our children’s safety behind the scenes.
Julia A. Espe
Here is our policy: