SCHS Student Handbook

Civil Rights and Safety Policy

It is the policy of the Springfield Public Schools to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all its students without distinction based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. Discrimination, sexual and bias-motivated harassment, and violations of civil rights disrupt the educational process and will not be tolerated.

It shall be a violation of this policy for any pupil, teacher, administrator or other school personnel to engage in sexual or bias-related harassment (referred to as "wrongful harassment") or violate the civil rights of any pupil, teacher, administrator, or other school personnel. Conduct amounting to hate crime is a particularly serious infraction that will result in referral to law enforcement agencies.

The school will act to investigate all complaints, either formal or informal, verbal or written, of sexual or bias-related harassment or violation of civil rights and to take appropriate action against any pupil, teacher, administrator, or other school personnel who is found to have violated this policy.

Commitment to Prevention

The Springfield Public Schools is committed to prevention, remediation, and accurate reporting of bias incidents and civil rights violations to ensure that all students can enjoy the advantages of a safe and tolerant learning environment where individual differences are respected.

Identification and Definitions of Prohibited Conduct

  1. BIAS INCIDENT means any act, including conduct of speech, directed at or which occurs to a person or property because of actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. A bias incident may or may not be a criminal act.
  2. BIAS INDICATORS are objective facts and circumstances, which suggest that an action was motivated in whole or in part by a particular type of bias.
  3. BIAS MOTIVES recognized as Massachusetts law as causing hate crimes include prejudice based on
    race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender, and sexual orientation.
  4. CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS involve interfering by threats, intimidation, or coercion, with someone's
    enjoyment of constitutional or statutory rights. Rights protected against interference include non-discrimination in access to advantages and privileges of a public school education. The term "civil rights violation" also covers bias-related and sexual harassment and bias crimes, so the term is applied generically to any civil or criminal law infractions.
  5. DISCRIMINATION consists of actions taken against another(s) which treat them unequally because race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender bias.
  6. HARASSMENT consists of unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct targeting specific person(s), which is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to create an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive school environment, or substantially interfere with the progress of a student's education.
    1. BIAS-RELATED HARASSMENT will present bias indicators, most commonly epithets: name-calling derogatory to a particular racial, religious, or sexual orientation group.
    2. SEXUAL HARASSMENT covers instances of physical or verbal conduct of sexual nature, not limited to but including sexual advances, which foster a hostile educational environment for the victim.
  7. HATE CRIMES include any criminal acts to which recognized types of bias motives are an evident contributing factor. Criminal bias-motivated conduct entails, at a minimum, threats. Criminal conduct includes acts putting someone in fear of immediate physical harm (assaults), and actual physical violence (assault and battery), and grows most serious if a victim suffers any bodily injury. Repeated threatening or menacing actions like following someone can amount to the crime of stalking.
  8. HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT exists when a student has been or is subjected to threats, intimidation, or coercion by another (or others) or is reasonably in fear for his or her safety. Whether a school environment has become hostile must be evaluated based on the totality of the circumstances. Repeated instances of bias-related and sexual harassment create a hostile environment for the victim. A single act of harassment can also create a hostile or intimidating environment if sufficiently severe. A hostile environment does not necessarily entail that a student exhibits quantifiable harm, such as a drop in grades.
  9. STALKING, a felony, consists of intentional conduct involving:
    1. Two or more acts directed at a specific person,
    2. Which would cause an average person substantial distress,
    3. Where the perpetrator has made threats causing the targeted person fear of death or injury.

Procedures for Responding to and Investigating Incidents

  1. Whenever a staff person witnesses, or some third party reports, a possible civil rights violation, the school's principal or designee must be notified. The school's principal or civil rights designee, in conjunction with school safety personnel, should immediately begin an investigation. In an emergency, 911 must be called. (If the incident involves administration, the Executive Director of Human Resources or the Superintendent is to be notified.)
  2. A student coming forward to report a civil rights violation he/she has experienced should be directed to the
    school's principal or designated civil rights administrator, after any emergency needs are attended. Consideration should be given to whether any immediate or interim steps are necessary to ensure the safety of and avert retaliation against the complainant.
  3. The investigation must determine whether a civil rights violation has in fact occurred. An immediate aim of the investigation should be preservation and gathering of evidence from the scene of an incident. Bias-related graffiti should be photographed then removed. The investigator should seek to interview all victims and witnesses at the scene, or as soon thereafter as possible, and then interview others who may have relevant knowledge as well. The investigation may also consist of any other methods and documents deemed relevant and useful.
  4. All the circumstances as found should be carefully evaluated for the presence of bias indicators that would characterize the matter as a civil rights violation. The investigation should make a finding as to whether a civil rights infraction in violation of this policy has occurred based on the definitions of wrongful conduct.
  5. All incidents must be reported on the "Incident Form" and sent to the district's Safety and Security Office.

Consequences for Civil Rights Violations and Failures to Act as Required

  1. Non-disciplinary Corrective Actions: Potential civil rights violations can be addressed with steps that are not punitive in character, without the necessity of disciplinary proceedings. These steps generally lie within the ordinary discretion of principals and school officials. Examples of non-disciplinary actions that may be appropriate in some instances include counseling, assignment to participate in diversity awareness training, separating offender and victim, parent conferences, and special work assignments such as research and a report on a civil rights-related subject.
  2. Disciplinary Proceedings: Violations of the civil rights of a student or school employee which are found to have occurred after a hearing warrant the imposition of sanctions up to and including suspension and expulsion (for students), and suspension or termination (for employees). Disciplinary actions will be taken toward the goals of eliminating the offending conduct, preventing reoccurrence, and re-establishing a school environment conducive for the victim to learn. The school may consider completion of a youth diversion program as a sanction for student violators, standing alone or in conjunction with other disciplinary actions, for violations of civil rights.
  3. Failure to Act by Administrators and Teachers: Upon completion of policy dissemination, administrators and teachers have a duty to act to stop witnessed sexual or bias harassment and hate crimes, as safely as can be done; and report occurrences to the civil rights administrators and sometimes the police. A clear failure to act as this policy would direct should in the first instance entail that the individual undergo further training in hate crimes, diversity issues, and the requirements of school policy. The school administration will develop further sanctions and actions to address repeated instances of a failure to act in accordance with this policy.

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