Did LHS Administration Follow Written Guidelines in dealing with Racial Texting?

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I am in NO way defending the Racial Texting or defending / agreeing with the way Lowell High handled this. However for those on Social Media who are calling for heads to roll, people to be fired etc. etc…..take a look at the written policy of the Lowell School Dept. , The LHS Handbook and the State requirements and it seems that they did for the most part follow them.

There is nothing that states Police MUST be called in, it says may be notified. There is time for an investigation to take place but  there is no set time that is must be completed by.

The notification process states that parents must be promptly notified Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred

Even that leaves some room for interpretation because of the allowance for investigation and for someone to make that determination. You can argue if you want that when the Housemaster and/or Headmaster saw the N word being used, then bullying had occurred and the victims parents should have been notified but the State gives some wiggle room to conduct an  investigation before notifying,

However the Districts website also allows for the victims parents to be called immediately:There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation.

So while I think questions remain on why the aggressors parents were notified before the victims parents or  why the Districts Office of Student Support Services was not notified right away, it appears the School Administration followed procedure.

According to the District website :a. Notice to parents or guardians. Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target/victim and the aggressor/perpetrator (or the aggressor(s)/perpetrator(s) if he/she/they is or are school staff) of this, and of the procedures for responding to it. There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.

The Housemaster may have been totally insensitive suggesting a picture  be taken of the victim and aggressor or that students not pick on those who sent the text messages but she did follow the District handbook (pg 5) which advises –1. Reporting by Staff : Any staff member that encounters an interaction that may be construed as bullying will first be asked to try to address the incident between the target(s)/victim(s) and aggressor(s)/perpetrator(s). The staff member will then report the incident immediately to the Principal or designee so the investigation process may begin.

Here is the Headmasters chronology of events and excerpts from the Lowell School Dept. Website – The LHS Handbook and the State School Dept. policy on notifying parents and bullying.

Headmaster Martins Statement on the Racial Texting Incident -Election results were announced at 8 AM on Tuesday, September 29th Students were texting during the day and eventually Housemasters became aware of specific insensitive statements later in the school day. Housemasters met with a group of students who had their name appear in the social media. The parents of the students involved in the incident were contacted to discuss the allegations.

Throughout the day on Wednesday additional information was continually brought to Housemasters’ attention and additional student interviews were conducted. Wednesday, September 30th, parents of newly elected class president visited LHS and met with Mrs Haley and the Headmaster. The parents shared their disappointment with not being contacted on Tuesday. I apologized and shared our version of the events as they unfolded and tried our best to explain that each and every student involved would be disciplined when all of the facts were verified.

Wednesday afternoon, at approximately 2:30PM, additional information was made available and further investigation was completed. Wednesday, 4:00PM, Headmaster requested SRO Sgt David Peaslee to meet and review all of the social media exchanges with Housemasters Haley, Slattery and O’Keefe. Sgt Peaslee subsequently made inquiries to LPD and it was determined by SPM that the incidents, although serious in nature, did not meet the threshold of a criminal complaint.

Wednesday 5:30 PM Headmaster spoke with Lowell Sun reporter Amelia Pak-Harvey and explained the process and next steps. Wednesday 9PM, Headmaster contacted the father of the class president at his home and explained the ongoing process. Thursday, 8AM, Headmaster read statement (attached) to the entire school community over PA system. 9:30AM, Housemasters made final recommendations and all students and parents were notified. Hearings were scheduled immediately and will conclude tomorrow, Friday, October 2.

Brian Martin Headmaster

FROM Lowell Public School Website

1. Reporting by Staff Any staff member that encounters an interaction that may be construed as bullying will first be asked to try to address the incident between the target(s)/victim(s) and aggressor(s)/perpetrator(s). The staff member will then report the incident immediately to the Principal or designee so the investigation process may begin. This initial report should ideally include: • Date, time and location of the incident • Individuals involved and their roles (e.g. target/victim, aggressor/perpetrator, bystander) • Information about if/how the incident is part of a pattern of 6 • Any actions taken by the staff person to defuse the situation This initial report may be done orally, by email or via a written note. The initial report must be documented in writing using the Incident Reporting Form within 72 hours of the initial report of the incident.

2. Obligation to Notify Others The Principal or designee has primary responsibility to notify the following constituencies in writing – through a letter or email message – when bullying or retaliation has occurred. A copy of all written or electronic communication with these constituencies must be sent to the Office of Student Support Services so they are (a) appropriately informed, and (b) can assist with response as needed. a. Notice to parents or guardians. Upon determining that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target/victim and the aggressor/perpetrator (or the aggressor(s)/perpetrator(s) if he/she/they is or are school staff) of this, and of the procedures for responding to it. There may be circumstances in which the principal or designee contacts parents or guardians prior to any investigation. Notice will be consistent with state regulations at 603 CMR 49.00.

MASS State Website

49.05: Notice to Parents

(1) Upon investigation and determination that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the principal shall promptly notify the parents of the target and the aggressor of the determination and the school district or school’s procedures for responding to the bullying or retaliation. The principal shall inform the target’s parent of actions that school officials will take to prevent further acts of bullying or retaliation. Nothing in 603 CMR 49.05 prohibits the principal from contacting a parent of a target or aggressor about a report of bullying or retaliation prior to a determination that bullying or retaliation has occurred.

(2) Notice required by 603 CMR 49.05 shall be provided in the primary language of the home.

(3) Each school district and school shall include the requirements and procedures for communicating with the parents of the aggressor and target of bullying or retaliation in the local plan.

(4) A principal’s notification to a parent about an incident or a report of bullying or retaliation must comply with confidentiality requirements of the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations, 603 CMR 23.00, and the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations, 34 CFR Part 99, as set forth in 603 CMR 49.07.

LHS Handbook

Harassment is defined as any conduct of a verbal or physical nature that embarrasses, distresses, agitates, disturbs, causes fear, causes an apprehension of harm, harms or troubles a student on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Harassment also includes sexual harassment, teen dating violence and sexual assault. Harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated.

Bullying is defined as the repeated use by one or more students or by a member of the school staff including, but not limited to an educator, an administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional of verbal, written or electronic expressions and/or communication (including Cyber-bullying)

“Cyber-bullying”, is 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

Any student/school staff who believes that he or she has been subjected to bullying and/or harassment should report the incident to any member of the school staff (teacher, counselor, administrator, crisis intervention specialist, nurse, etc.) and/or parent and/or law enforcement official as soon as possible. To the extent that the student/parent believes that harassment and/or bullying creates a grievance under Title IX and/or Chapter 662 the student would also have the option of filing a complaint in writing to the coordinator of Title IX or Chapter 622.

A report (verbal or written) of harassment and/or bullying will be investigated promptly and in an impartial and confidential manner, to ensure prompt and appropriate action. Any individual who is found, after an appropriate investigation, to have engaged in harassment and/or bullying (as defined above) on or off school grounds (as defined by law) will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including expulsion.

Please also note that law enforcement may be notified as a result of bullying and/or harassment and/or for knowingly making false accusations and as a result, criminal charges may be sought.

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