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letters | grappling with cases of bullying

State has steps in place to help ensure students are safe, supported

It is deeply troubling to hear about circumstances where students feel ostracized in their school or community (“Bullying at school: Law should be stronger,” Editorial, Aug. 9). Schools have no greater responsibility than to provide all students with a safe and supportive learning environment that enables them to succeed academically and developmentally. And in Massachusetts, we have a thoughtfully crafted anti-bullying statute that protects the rights of our students.

When any egregious behavior — whether harassment, bullying, hazing, or criminal activity — is alleged to occur in school, parents and students should immediately contact school or district leaders. Each district has policies and strategies for preventing and responding to these types of situations, and where necessary, for notifying local law enforcement. Schools and districts have a duty to investigate these matters promptly and thoroughly and take appropriate action.

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If parents and students are not satisfied with the local response, they have other avenues open to them. Our state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a problem resolution system that handles complaints alleging that a school or district is not complying with education laws. We also have many resources posted on our website on bullying prevention and intervention for parents, students, and educators. And ultimately, as in the case described in the editorial, parents and students may pursue remedies in court.

Every student has the right to a safe and supportive learning environment, and all of us who work with and care about students play an important part in making that happen.

Mitchell D. Chester

Massachusetts commissioner

of elementary and

secondary education


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