Harassment & Bullying
At The Overlake School, all individuals should be treated with respect and dignity. All persons have the right to attend school in an environment that is free from harassment. Any harassment of individuals, including that based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religious beliefs or other beliefs will not be tolerated. It is a major infraction for an Overlake student to harass another person through conduct or communication that is determined by this policy to be harassment. Overlake’s harassment policy will extend beyond school activities if it is clear that the school is the link between the victim and the person responsible for the harassment and/or if the harassment affects the victim’s comfort or safety in the school environment.
Harassment is defined as any unwelcome behavior that interferes with a student’s ability to learn or a person’s ability to conduct their usual work. This behavior creates an uncomfortable, or even a hostile, environment for the individual. The term “unwelcome” indicates the action or behavior was unsolicited and not reciprocal. In other words, the person witnessing or being affected by the behavior did not “ask for” or invite the behavior, nor did the person respond “in kind” with similar behavior.
Violations of this rule include, but are not limited to:
- Physical attacks
- Putting a person in fear for their safety
- Verbal or non-verbal, written, graphic abuse (derogatory comments; sending threatening letters, e-mail, or instant messages; posting disparaging remarks /pictures for public scrutiny; using personal websites, blogs, or other emerging technologies to disparage others; negative stereotyping are just a few examples)
- Threats or references to school violence, particularly school shootings
Harassment Based on Group Stereotyping
Harassment based on group stereotyping is conduct motivated by a person’s race, ethnicity, color, heritage, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. It includes, but is not limited to:
- Treatment that is different based on prejudiced stereotypes of a group
- Offensive or demeaning treatment of an individual(s), based on prejudiced stereotypes of a group
- Conduct sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to have the purpose or effect of creating an uncomfortable or hostile learning environment
- Conduct sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to have the purpose or effect of interfering with a student’s or employee’s performance or opportunities
This kind of harassment may result from verbal or physical conduct or written graphic material caused by the following kinds of behavior:
- Conduct addressed directly to a person(s) that threatens violence or property damage, and/or that is made with the specific intent to harass or intimidate the victim because of racial and ethnic traits, color, gender, heritage, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs
- Behavior that abuses, belittles, humiliates, defames, or demeans a person or a group of persons based on racial and ethnic traits, color, heritage, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs
- Abusive and/or derogatory language that in a subtle or overt manner belittles, humiliates, impugns, or defames a person or a group of persons based on racial and ethnic traits, color, gender, heritage, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs
- Slander, libel, or obscene speech that advocates hatred against or invites degradation of a person or group based on racial and ethnic traits, color, heritage, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs
Some examples, such as physical and verbal abuse, are easily identified. More difficult to label is the harassment hidden behind graffiti or insensitive words or statements, such as epithets or “jokes.” Both the blatant abuse and the more subtle harassment can be equally damaging. All should be aware that the perpetrator of harassment may not intend it as such, but the effect is still emotional distress on the part of the offended; thus, the behavior still constitutes harassment within all accepted definitions.
Generally, sexual harassment may be defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Some examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Using language of a sexual nature
- Suggestive or inappropriate communications, e-mail, notes, letters, or other written materials displaying objects or pictures which are sexual in nature that would create hostile or offensive work or living environments
- Sexual innuendoes, comments, and remarks about a person's clothing, body or activities
- Suggestive or insulting sounds
- Whistling in a suggestive manner
- Humor and jokes about sex that denigrate men or women
- Sexual propositions, invitations, or pressure for sexual activity
- Use in the classroom of sexual jokes, stories, remarks or images in no way germane to the subject matter of the class
- Implied or overt sexual threats
- Suggestive or obscene gestures
- Leering, or looking a person up or down in a suggestive manner
- Patting, pinching, and other inappropriate touching
- Unnecessary touching or brushing against the body
- Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s sex life
- Blocking a person’s path
- Stalking a person
- Giving unwanted personal gifts
- Making unwanted visits to a person’s home
- Attempted or actual kissing or fondling
- Coerced sexual intercourse
- Sexual assault
Response to Harassment
Any person who believes that he or she has been the victim of harassment, harassment based on group stereotyping, or sexual harassment should report the alleged acts immediately to a member of the Overlake faculty or administration. Any person who witnesses any kind of act of harassment should report the incident to a member of the Overlake faculty or administration. Complaints received will be promptly investigated to determine whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the alleged behavior constitutes harassment, harassment based on group stereotyping, or sexual harassment under the definitions outlined above. Unacceptable student conduct may or may not constitute these kinds of harassment, depending on the nature of the conduct and its severity, pervasiveness or persistence. Behaviors which are unacceptable but do not constitute sexual harassment or harassment based on group stereotyping may provide grounds for discipline simply because of harassment. The discipline of a student for violation of any behavioral expectation may be enhanced if the conduct is sexually motivated or based on group stereotyping. Overlake will take appropriate action to address any alleged or suspected incidents of harassment. All cases of harassment are considered major infractions, and it is up to the Assistant Upper School Head/Middle School Head as to whether or not to send the case to the Student Review Board. It should be noted that possible consequences for harassment of any kind are suspension or dismissal from Overlake.
Addendum: Important Notes on Bullying
The Overlake School is committed to maintaining a school climate in which students may learn and grow without fear of bullying or hazing, and thus every student has the right to feel safe from bullying at school. In accordance with our school’s mission and core values we strive to create a safe, positive and supportive culture in which each student can enjoy their academic, social and athletic opportunities and, therefore, bullying or hazing in any form will not be tolerated. These notes on bullying are intended for policy clarification purposes and constitute an addendum to the school’s current Harassment Policy.
Definition of Bullying
Bullying is systematically and chronically inflicting verbal or physical hurt and/or psychological distress on one or more students. It is intentionally repeating cruel incidents involving the same student(s). Bullying can also be a one-time incident. What constitutes a bullying incident lies in the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, and the intent of their interaction—mainly to cause distress to the victim. While bullying incidents vary in nature and degree of severity (see table of direct and indirect bullying examples below), and while perpetrators and victims will have different perceptions of these incidents, the consent of the victim may not be used as a defense, since such consent is no justification for bullying. In other words, the implied or expressed consent of a person or persons to bullying shall not be a defense against discipline under this policy.
- Any act that involves physical brutality or physical aggression that causes or is reasonably likely to cause bodily danger or physical harm to an individual;
- Any act that involves forced consumption of food, alcohol, drugs, or other substances, or any other forced physical activity that could endanger the physical health or safety of an individual;
- Any activity that would subject an individual to extreme mental stress, extreme embarrassment, or extreme emotional harm, or any other forced activity that could endanger the mental health or dignity of the individual.
Examples of common forms of bullying which may be verbal, physical, or psychological
|Direct Bullying||Indirect Bullying|
School personnel (including all teachers, staff, coaches, etc.) and all students who become aware of bullying shall report such incidents immediately to school administrators so that prompt and appropriate action can be taken. This requires vigilant observations in the classroom and around campus, particularly during daily transition periods (usually between classes or during lunch, for example) when students’ behavior may be less obvious to or deliberately concealed from adults. Any student who believes he or she is the victim of bullying or observes incidents that might constitute bullying has the obligation to inform or report the incidence to a teacher or staff member. Reporting of this nature—by personnel and students—helps to ensure the safety of all students and benefits the whole school community.
Overlake’s School Counselors are also available for consultation with students who believe they are subject to bullying and who may not wish to report bullying incidences directly to school administrators. Reports will be treated confidentially and only shared with others within the school community on the basis of ensuring students’ safety. Certain conduct, such as violent behavior, may constitute a violation of law requiring that it be reported to proper authorities. Under such circumstances, the faculty member or counselor to whom the matter is reported will not be able to maintain the matter in confidence.
Consequences & Discipline
Each case of bullying that is reported to the Assistant Upper School Head/Middle School Head will be treated on an individual basis. Depending on the circumstances, a range of disciplinary steps and strategies will be employed. These are outlined in Overlake’s Disciplinary Policies and Consequences.
- D. Owlets, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1993)