Issued: February 11, 2011
This resource document contains tools to assist schools and IEP Teams to prevent bullying of students with disabilities and to enable Teams to comply with special education-related provisions of the law. The document is organized according to the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Framework2. The Framework sections are used in the Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan3 and in this document so that whole school approaches and individual supports for particular students can be aligned with each other. This will help to include students with disabilities in the school- and district-wide bullying prevention and intervention initiatives from which all students should benefit. These Framework sections are leadership, training and professional development, access to resources and services, academic and non-academic activities, policies and procedures for reporting and responding to bullying, and collaboration with families.
The Department is making this document available to all educators — general and special education teachers, administrators and student support staff — in recognition of the collaboration between special education and general education that is necessary to address proactively and effectively the needs of students with disabilities relative to bullying. By bridging whole-school efforts with those taking place on behalf of individual students with disabilities, we can begin to eliminate the threat of bullying for this vulnerable population and continue to make progress toward the long-term goal of safely and effectively including all students in their school communities.
First, the document provides assistance in the form of questions to help Teams determine which students are covered by the new law and what their needs may be. Second, the document provides questions for schools to consider in order to enable the broader bullying prevention and intervention initiatives taking place at the school and district level to support the efforts of IEP Teams to help individual students develop necessary skills and proficiencies. These questions, organized by each Framework section, are titled Whole School Considerations, to help educators begin a planning process about the role of the entire school community in supporting students with disabilities. A third set of guiding questions in each Framework section, titled Questions for IEP Teams, is written primarily for those who are directly involved in the IEP development process — special education directors, Team chairpersons, general and special educators, parents, service providers, and others. They provide guidance for Team members as they develop IEPs that will help individual students build the skills and proficiencies necessary to avoid and respond to bullying, teasing, and harassment as required by the new bullying prevention and intervention law4. The Framework informs the IEP development process as it helps Teams to holistically address all of a student's needs.
IEP Teams must determine whether the sections 7 and 8 provisions of the Massachusetts bullying prevention and intervention law apply to eligible students. The provisions apply if the student's disability (a) is on the autism spectrum, or (b) affects social skills development, or (c) makes the student vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing.5
For students on the autism spectrum, protection under the law will be automatic. For students in the other two categories, the Team must make a determination as to whether the student's disability affects social skills development or renders the student vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing. Teams should be aware that students with emotional impairments, developmental delays, health impairments, communication disorders, and neurological impairments are likely to have a disability that affects their social skills development. However, Teams should carefully evaluate whether students with any type of impairment have delays in social skills development or are otherwise vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing because of their disability.
The questions below are designed to help the Team to determine whether the student has a disability that renders him/her vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing. In addition, the questions will help to identify a student's specific needs and inform the process of developing specific goals and objectives for the student. In preparation for consideration of these questions at the Team meeting, it may be helpful to provide the student and parent with a bullying prevention and intervention survey, consisting of these questions, which should be modified to the student's developmental level. In addition, the school could conduct an individual interview about the student's social experiences at school.6
After the IEP Team has identified a student's needs, the Team could use the Framework outlined below to guide a discussion of what goals, objectives services, supports, instruction, and accommodations should be included in the student's IEP. Using the Framework to guide the IEP development process is a helpful way of ensuring that all of a student's needs are taken into account and that the IEP, with appropriate accommodations, is aligned with the school's and district's broader efforts to prevent and intervene in incidents of bullying. In addition, using the Framework helps to ensure that the necessary adjustments to the school environment needed to support and reinforce the student are addressed.
In considering what goals may be appropriate for an individual student, the Department's Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2011-2: Bullying Prevention and Intervention referred to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)7 for current research on specific skills and proficiencies needed to avoid bullying, harassment, and teasing. As the IEP Team moves through the process outlined below, it may wish to consider overarching goals from the core categories identified by CASEL: Self-Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-making.
The approaches in this document are informed by current research on bullying prevention and intervention as well as by research and practice from those who work with students with disabilities, including students with autism and other disabilities that affect social skills development. By no means are these lists exhaustive; rather, they are illustrative of the types of matters Teams should be considering. (See Appendix for detailed descriptions of how and why these strategies are key to addressing specific bullying risks as well as to developing general skills that will reduce the student's vulnerability to bullying over time.)
Does the school leadership need to:
Sample IEP Provisions to Consider — These provisions might be included in the Additional Information section of the IEP or in the Accommodations section of Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEP) A or PLEP B.
Sample IEP Provisions to Consider — These provisions might be included in the Additional Information section or Section A of the Service Delivery Grid.
Sample IEP Provisions to Consider — These provisions might be included in the Additional Information section, the Transportation section, or Section C of the Service Delivery Grid.
Sample IEP Provisions to Consider — These provisions might be included in PLEP A, in the Testing Accommodations section, in Section B or Section C of the Service Delivery Grid, or in the Additional Information section.
Sample IEP Provisions to Consider — These provisions might be included in the Additional Information section or in the Accommodations section of PLEP A or PLEP B.
Sample IEP Provisions to Consider — These provisions might be included in the Additional Information section or in Section A of the Service Delivery Grid.
Role Playing: For role playing to be effective, it should be conducted by a professional in a small group setting such as a social skills group with students of similar needs. Role plays should provide explicit concrete instruction, model appropriate responses, and allow students to rehearse. Role plays should provide an opportunity to follow up with supportive feedback to students and opportunities for practicing. Role plays can be used to teach students: 1) how to respond to bullying with "I" statements (e.g., "I need you to stop." or "I am leaving now."); 2) how to walk away before bullying occurs; and 3) how to identify bullying, harassment, or teasing with negative intentions; and 4) how to tell an adult. These activities should be practiced in small group settings, using a variety of scenarios with different types of bullying behavior.
Social Stories: A Social StoryTM describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in the first person, in a specifically defined style and format that includes an introduction, body and conclusion. It answers "wh" questions: who is involved; where and when a situation occurs, what is happening, how it happens and why. * The goal of a Social StoryTM is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner. It is a helpful tool, and often the story needs to be read repeatedly for it to be understood by the student. Training is required for staff to use this strategy and should involve working with an educator or other educational professional who already is using Social Stories. This should be followed by practicing with the student(s) under the supervision of the experienced educator.
Using language to communicate effectively is the basis of pragmatics. It is instruction in the social use of language. Students with disabilities often do not notice — or notice but misinterpret — the nonverbal aspects of what other people are communicating to them, including facial expression, vocal expression, body language, gestures, volume, pauses, and so forth. Instead, these students may miss the context and hear only the words that are spoken. This also includes difficulties in areas of expressive communication such as filtering thoughts before they are spoken and socializing for the sake of interpersonal connection rather than for conveying information. This type of instruction is used to give specific information to students and then practice the "give and take" of conversation in multiple settings with many different people. Providing direct instruction to learn how to increase pragmatic skills to distinguish between friendly overtures and bullying, harassment, or teasing attempts can assist students to reflect back on their day to discuss social interactions and decide whether the interaction was friendly or mean-spirited.
Social Skills Groups: These are small groups of students with similar needs working with a qualified instructor on skills that are important to develop social competencies.
Social Lunch Groups: These can be ways for students to connect, but are not to be used in place of a social skills group; the "lunch bunch" group can be a short, comfortable, quiet time away from the confusing cafeteria to have lunch with other students and an understanding staff member who facilitates the interactions. The best situation would be for other students (with and without disabilities) to be involved, not just the student and a staff member; these are students whose adult relationships are usually fine, and the lunch time would be an opportunity to connect in a casual way with other students. There should always be the goal of working towards eating in the lunch room successfully. Use non-disabled peers as models, have staff around to make sure there is no bullying during lunch, and use any other strategies that the Team decides are important to make the lunch time successful.
Social Recreation Groups: This type of group is not skills based but is a way for students to connect and practice skills while doing something fun together.
"Home Base": This is a location in the school selected by student and school staff where the student can go when not feeling safe. ("Safe" and "unsafe" feelings would need to be defined and taught.) This location should be a place where the student can be supervised and monitored by school staff. Some examples could include the School Adjustment Counselor's office, the main office, the resource room, or the nurse's office.
"Safe Person": This is a designated person in the school who the student can talk to and process social situations that are troubling, confusing, or agitating, including bullying, that may not be readily understood by the student. This person should be familiar to the student and have a trusting relationship already established. This needs to be a person chosen with the student and parents who understands the student and can help him or her de-escalate a situation or calm down and resume the normal school day routine. This does not need to be a specialist or a teacher but can be a staff member who knows and understands this student and can help him or her interpret confusing situations. The Safe Person must be familiar with practices known to be helpful when working with students with disabilities that affect communication and social awareness.
1 This document was developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC). The Department would like to thank MAC for its contributions.
2 BHPS School Self-Assessment Tool
3 Memo: Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan under M.G.L. c. 71, § 37O
4 The following sections in the law are specific to students with disabilities: Section 7: Whenever the evaluation of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team indicates that the student has a disability that affects social skills development or that the student is vulnerable to bullying, harassment or teasing because of the student's disability, the IEP shall address the skills and proficiencies needed to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing. Section 8: Whenever an evaluation indicates that a student has a disability on the autism spectrum… the IEP Team… shall consider and shall specifically address… the skills and proficiencies needed to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment or teasing.
5 See Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2011-2: Bullying Prevention and Intervention
6 Decisions about the specifics of who would interview the student, whether the interview would be with the student alone or with parent(s), and the type of communication (verbal, visual) necessary should be made in consultation with the parent and the staff member who is most familiar with the student and his/her particular disability. The goal should be to establish an atmosphere of trust, comfort, and privacy that will enable the student to articulate any concerns.
7 The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is an organization formed in 1994 that provides national and international leadership to enhance scientific research on social and emotional learning (SEL) and to expand the effective practice of SEL in schools. SEL is defined by CASEL and in the bullying prevention and intervention law (Section 16), as the process by which students acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and constructively handle challenging social situations.
8 MGL c. 71B, § 3.
9 Defined as small groups of students with similar needs working with a qualified instructor on skills that are important to develop social competencies. A trained professional for social skills groups may be an experienced Speech and Language Pathologist but is not limited to that profession.
10 A Social StoryTM describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social StoryTM is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner. Specialized training is required to use this technique appropriately.
11 For Role Playing to be effective, it should be conducted by a trained professional (see note 4 above) in a small group setting like a social skills group with students of similar needs.
12 Given the nature of the bullying prevention and intervention curriculum, it is likely to evoke a highly personal and potentially emotional response to the material contained therein. Thus, the IEP Team should not expect that the adaptations typically made to academic curricula will necessarily be sufficient to address the student's needs related to bullying prevention and intervention.
13 Discipline procedures for students with disabilities are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which should be considered in conjunction with state laws regarding student discipline. See 34 CFR 300.530 – 300.537. DESE regulations require that disciplinary actions taken against an aggressor who bullied a student balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior. 603 CMR 49.06(2)(b). School officials are not required to notify local police of the aggressor's conduct under 603 CMR 49.06, Notification to Law Enforcement, if school officials determine that the incident can be handled appropriately within the school. 603 CMR 49.06(2).
* See The Grey Center for Social Learning and Responsibility (Carol Grey).
Last Updated: March 4, 2011
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