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SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17109

 

POLICY

 HARASSMENT/IMPROPER CONDUCT

 

The Susquehanna Township School District strives to provide a safe, positive learning climate for students. Therefore, it shall be the policy of the District to maintain an educational environment in which student harassment in any form is not tolerated.

 

The District prohibits all forms of harassment of students and staff members, contracted individuals, vendors, and volunteers in the school, and at extracurricular and district-sponsored activities.

 

Each school within the District shall annually inform students, staff, parents/guardians, independent contractors and volunteers that harassment of students will not be tolerated.

 

Each school employee and contractor shall be responsible to maintain an educational environment free from all forms of harassment.

 

Each student shall be responsible to respect the rights of their fellow students and to ensure an atmosphere free from all forms of harassment.

 

The District encourages students who believe they have been harassed to promptly report such incidents, either verbally, or in writing, to the teachers, counselors, nurses, and administrators. Any employee, who receives a harassment complaint, whether verbal or written, shall report such to the school principal or Superintendent.

 

The School Board directs that complaints of harassment be investigated promptly and corrective action taken when allegations are verified. Confidentiality of all parties shall be maintained, consistent with the school’s legal and investigative obligations. Neither reprisals nor retaliation shall occur as a result of good faith charges of harassment.

 

Types Of Harassment

The term harassment includes but is not limited to repeated, unwelcome and offensive slurs, jokes, or other verbal, graphic or physical conduct relating to an individual’s physical characteristics, race, color, religion, ancestry, gender, gender identity, gender expression, actual or perceived sexual orientation, national origin, age or handicap/disability that create an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment.

 

  1. Harassment can take the form of, but is not limited to, derogatory remarks, jokes, demeaning comments or behavior, slurs, mimicking, name-calling, graffiti, innuendo, gestures, physical conduct, stalking, threatening, bullying, exploiting, shunning, or the display or circulation of written materials or pictures.

  2. Computer technology, such as e-mail and Web sites, can be a means for accomplishing harassing behavior. Such conduct, even if initiated outside of school, may be in violation of this policy if there is a valid nexus with the school and/or if it disrupts the educational process.

 

Ethnic harassment includes the repeated, unwelcome and offensive use of any derogatory word, phrase or action characterizing a given racial or ethnic group that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment.

 

Sexual harassment shall consist of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other inappropriate verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a student’s academic status.

  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for academic decisions affecting the individual.

  3. Such conduct deprives a student of educational aid, benefits, services or treatment.

  4. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the student’s school performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive education environment.

 

Examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to sexual flirtations, advances, touching or propositions; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; graphic or suggestive comments about an individual’s dress or body; sexually degrading words to describe an individual; non-verbal communication of a sexual nature; jokes, pin-ups, calendars, objects, graffiti, vulgar statements, abusive language, innuendoes, references to sexual activities, overt sexual conduct; or any conduct that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with a student’s ability to work or learn or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment.

 

Special Provisions For Student-On-Student Harassment

 

The school recognizes that a certain amount of teasing is inherent among school age children. Therefore, verbal or physical actions that are not specifically defined as harassment may be deemed harassment in particular situations, on a case-by-case basis, by the school principal.

 

The principal shall warn the offending student that the principal considers the conduct to have reached the level of inappropriate behavior. If the offending student continues the inappropriate behavior, the student shall be in violation of this policy.

 

Determination Of Student-On-Student Harassment

 

Determining whether or not student-on-student harassment has, in fact, occurred requires a determination based on all the facts and surrounding circumstances. School officials should consider the following:

 

  1. The nature of the behaviors.

  2. Whether there were past incidents involving the same or other students.

  3. Whether there were continuing patterns of behavior.

  4. Relationship between the parties.

  5. Context in which the alleged incident occurred.

  6. How often the conduct occurred.

  7. The race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or age of the respective parties.

  8. Number of alleged perpetrators.

  9. Where harassment occurred.

  10. Whether the conduct adversely affected the victim’s education or learning environment.

 

Harassment Of Staff By Students

 

The provisions regarding the harassment of students by adult members of the school community is conversely applicable to harassment of employees and volunteers by students (i.e., student-on-staff harassment). Determining whether or not student-on-staff harassment has, in fact occurred, shall require a determination based on all the facts and surrounding circumstances. School officials should consider the following:

 

  1. The nature of the behaviors.

  2. Whether there were past incidents involving any party.

  3. Whether there were continuing patterns of behavior.

  4. Relationship between the parties.

  5. Context in which the alleged incident occurred.

  6. How often the conduct occurred.

  7. The race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, actual     or perceived sexual orientation, or age of the respective parties.

  8. Number of alleged perpetrators.

  9. The normal or expected maturity level of the student.

  10. Where harassment occurred.

  11. Whether the conduct adversely affected the victim’s work environment.

 

Formal Complaint Procedure

 A student who believes s/he is a victim of harassment should bring the matter to the attention of a teacher, counselor, principal, administrator or activities sponsor in written or verbal form. The building level principal will conduct an investigation of the factual allegations of the complaint as expeditiously as possible.

 

Any school employee receiving from a student a complaint of, or observing or otherwise learning of, an incident of alleged harassment to a student, shall immediately report it to the principal, together with a summary statement providing background information regarding the incident. The employee shall so report even if the student is uncooperative or does not want to pursue the matter.

 

If any reporting individual does not feel comfortable reporting to the building principal, the individual may report to the Superintendent. Depending on the circumstances involved, the Superintendent may undertake the investigation or may appoint another individual to undertake the investigation. If it appears that the alleged improper conduct is also criminal in nature, the investigating individual will make an appropriate referral to law enforcement; however, this referral does not relieve the District of the duty to undertake its own investigation. Any employee or visitor who feels that s/he has been the victim of harassment should contact the principal or Superintendent as soon as the harassment occurs, or otherwise as soon as possible after the incident. If the alleged victim discloses to or seeks the assistance of an intermediate, like a nurse, guidance counselor, teacher for example, the intermediate must immediately contact the principal or the Superintendent. A written and signed statement of the complaint must be submitted by the complainant within three (3) days of the initial report. The intermediate who received the report must submit a summary statement within three (3) days of the initial report. The complaint and summary statement will be filed at the building level and district office. Filing a complaint or otherwise reporting harassment in good faith will not reflect upon the individual’s status nor will it affect future employment, grades or work assignments.

 

Upon receipt of the complaint, the building principal or Superintendent and/or designee will contact the person who initiated the alleged harassment, and inform that person of the basis of the complaint, as well as provide the opportunity to respond in writing to the allegations set forth in the complaint.

 

The principal, Superintendent, or designee, will conduct an investigation of the factual allegations of the complaint as expeditiously as possible. Witnesses, if any, such as employees, supervisors, students, visitors, etc., will be interviewed, where appropriate. The complainant and the individual identified as the person accused of the alleged harassment will also be interviewed. Any physical evidence, such as videotapes, text messages, emails, letters, cards, etc. will be reviewed. All of the information obtained in the principal’s, Superintendent’s, or designee’s investigation will be kept in the maximum confidence permitted by law.

 

The principal, Superintendent and/or designee, after conducting a review of the facts of the investigation, including possible additional interviews with all parties involved, will evaluate the harassment claim. After making a determination as set forth above, the building principal, Superintendent, or designee will prepare a written confidential summary of the complaint, the response, and other relevant facts developed during the investigation, as well as a recommended course of remedial action.

 

If it is determined that harassment has occurred, appropriate disciplinary action up to and including discharge, in regard to an employee, and expulsion, in regard to a student, will be taken. The severity of the disciplinary/penalty will be at the sole discretion of the District, Superintendent and/or designee but, generally will be determined by the severity and frequency of the offense, or other relevant conditions surrounding the incident.

 

It must be recognized that an individual’s failure to report an incident of harassment within ten (10) days of its occurrence may impair the District’s ability to investigate and address any harassment. An individual’s failure to submit a written complaint within three (3) days of his/her verbal report of harassment may seriously compromise the District’s ability to address the alleged activity. If the individual against whom the complaint of harassment is filed fails to respond to the complaint within seven (7) days of notification by the District, the complaint may be deemed to be true, and appropriate disciplinary action taken up to and including discharge or expulsion may be taken. Therefore, individuals should use their best effort to comply with these timelines.

 

If, after a complete investigation, the allegations remain indeterminate, unsubstantiated or unverifiable, the principal, Superintendent, or designee shall record his/her conclusions in writing, and shall document all the steps that were taken in an attempt to verify the allegations. The principal, Superintendent or designee shall also document the basis for his/her decision regarding the allegations. These results will be maintained by the school, separate and apart from any personnel or student file.

 

Rights Of Accused

 

The District recognizes that all allegations of harassment are not necessarily true and acknowledges that employees, supervisors, students and volunteers may be unjustly accused.

 

The District affirms its resolve to protect the rights of all accused parties, to fairly and accurately investigate all allegations coming to its attention, and to apply appropriate disciplinary or administrative sanctions when necessary.

 

All matters involving harassment complaints shall remain confidential to the full extent possible.

 

The guidelines contained in this policy are not intended to supersede or circumvent any procedural rights accorded employees or students by the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949, as amended, federal or state laws or regulations, collective bargaining agreements or administrator compensation plans.

 

The District recognizes that the law of harassment is continually evolving as a result of judicial decisions. Therefore, upon receipt of any complaint or report of harassment, the Superintendent may consult with the solicitor to determine if any portions of this policy, including investigation and disciplinary procedures, are no longer lawful; or if additional procedures are required.

 

Student Handbook/Discipline Code

 

This policy shall be either set forth verbatim in the District’s student handbooks or be concisely summarized in the handbooks. If summarized, the handbook shall advise where the full policy is available for inspection. The student discipline code shall specifically state that a single incident of student-on-student or student-on-staff harassment could result in suspension or expulsion.

 

 

Approved by the School Board – May 19, 2008