Youth | Bullying | Massachusetts
Does Massachusetts have a law to protect public school students from bullying?
Yes. Massachusetts has one of the strongest anti-bullying laws in the country. It has strict requirements that schools must follow to protect students from a wide variety of bullying, be it physical, verbal, or online. Many of these requirements apply to all schools, whether public, private, or charter. Some of the key provisions of the law include:
- Every school, with the exception of some private schools, must have in place a comprehensive anti-bullying policy;
- Each plan shall recognize that certain students may be more vulnerable to becoming a target of bullying or harassment based on actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, including gender identity or expression and sexual orientation or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics. The plan shall include the specific steps that each school district, charter school, non-public school, approved private day or residential school and collaborative school shall take to support vulnerable students and to provide all students with the skills, knowledge and strategies needed to prevent or respond to bullying or harassment.
- A student’s parents or guardians must be notified if the school learns that they have been bullied;
- Teachers and other school staff must receive training on how to handle bullying and are required to report bullying to the administration;
- Each school must teach students about bullying.
Does Massachusetts have guidance schools should follow to protect transgender students?
Yes, Massachusetts has created guidance for schools on the rights, responsibilities and best educational practices for transgender and gender non-conforming students.
The guidelines include the following:
- Schools should respect a transgender student’s name and pronouns;
- Schools should respect transgender students’ privacy regarding any medical information, previous names, etc.;
- The name and gender on a student’s records should conform to the student’s gender identity;
- Transgender students should be able to use the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that accord with their gender identity;
- In any sex-segregated activities (including athletics), transgender students should be able to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
What can I do if I’m being discriminated against or bullied at school?
There are many ways to approach the issue. One is to ask for support from a friend, teacher or counselor and talk to the people who are bothering you. That is not an option, however, if you don’t feel safe doing so.
Take a look at your school policies and notify whoever is supposed to be notified — usually a vice principal or Title IX coordinator. You should document any incidents of harassment or discrimination in writing with at least the date and time. Once you meet with the right officials, write yourself notes about what you told them and on what date and ask when they will be getting back to you with a response. If they don’t help you or don’t follow through, you may wish to write to the principal and superintendent and ask for them to end the discrimination.
If this fails, you may also wish to consider legal action against the town by contacting the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination or the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
This is a complicated area of law as well as being emotionally challenging. Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLADAnswers.org or by phone at 800-455-GLAD (4523) to discuss options.
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