Deerfield Academy is committed to providing our students a safe learning environment, free from bullying (including cyber-bullying) or harassment, where all community members treat each other with respect and appreciate the rich diversity in our school. This policy is an integral part of Deerfield’s comprehensive efforts to promote learning, eliminate all forms of violent, harmful, and disruptive behavior and enable students to achieve their personal and academic potential and become successful citizens.
Deerfield recognizes that certain students may be more vulnerable to become targets of bullying, harassment, hazing or teasing based on actual or perceived characteristics including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socio economic status, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics. Deerfield will identify specific steps it will take to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in the school community, and provide all students with the skill, knowledge and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, hazing, harassment or teasing.
Our advising system and residential program, working closely with student leaders, provide a unique ability to identify and support the most vulnerable members of the school community.
Deerfield Academy will promptly investigate all reports and complaints of bullying or harassment and take prompt action to attempt to end that behavior and prevent its reoccurrence. Action may include, where appropriate, referral to a law enforcement agency.
General Statement of Policy
This Policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, independent contractors, school volunteers, parents and legal guardians of students, and visitors to Deerfield where the conduct occurs on school premises or in school-related activities, including school-related transportation. It does not apply to conduct that occurs solely between employees of Deerfield.
Disciplinary and Corrective Action
Violators will be subject to appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective action to end the conduct, prevent its reoccurrence, and protect the target and other similarly situated individuals from harassment, retaliation, and bullying in the future.
Bullying: Any written or verbal expression, or physical acts or gestures, directed at another person(s) to intimidate, frighten, ridicule, humiliate, or cause harm to the other person, where the conduct is not related to the person’s membership in a protected class (e.g., race, sex). Bullying may include, but is not limited to, repeated taunting, threats of harm, verbal or physical intimidation, cyber-bullying through e-mails, instant messages, or websites, pushing, kicking, hitting, spitting, or taking or damaging another’s personal property. Bullying behavior may also constitute a crime.
 Experts have determined that bullying is a form of aggression involving a power imbalance between the bully and victim, where the bully has actual or perceived physical, social, and/or psychological power over his or her target(s). Bullying generally involves a pattern of conduct that is directed at a victim, rather than a single isolated incident.
Target: A person who complains about conduct covered by this Policy who is the alleged victim of the conduct, and if a student, his/her/their parent or guardian.
Cyberbullying: “Cyber-bullying” is bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but 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. Cyber-bullying shall also include (i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identify of another person or (ii) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in the definition of bullying. Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions enumerated in the definition of bullying.
Harassment: Any abuse of an individual or group based on ethnic origin, religious beliefs, race, sexual preference, gender, age or grade in school. It includes both easily identified acts of verbal, written or physical abuse, and more subtle, but equally damaging, forms of harassment, such as graffiti, epithets, stereotypical remarks of “humor” or any behavior that contributes to the creation of a hostile environment in which to live and learn.
Retaliation: Any form of intimidation, reprisal, or harassment by a school community member directed against another school community member for reporting or filing a complaint, for aiding or encouraging the filing of a report or complaint, for cooperating in an investigation under this Policy, or for taking action consistent with this Policy.
Reporter: A person reporting an incident who is a third party and not the victim of the alleged conduct that violates the Policy.
School community member: Any student, or school employee, independent contractor, school volunteer, parent or legal guardian of a student, or a visitor on school premises or at a school-related or school-sponsored function or activity.
School employee: Any administrator, faculty member, counselor, nurse, secretary, librarian, and any other professional or staff member employed by the Deerfield, and (except school volunteers) subject to the Deerfield’s direction or control.
School-related activity: Any school-sponsored activity, such as a trip or an athletic competition, any school-related function or event where school officials have supervisory responsibility for students; or where students are using school transportation.
School volunteer: Any person who without compensation provides goods, supplies, or services to the Deerfield on a one time or an ongoing basis, and who is not a school employee or independent contractor.
Sexual harassment: The overriding factor in sexual harassment is that the offending behavior is uninvited and/or unwanted. It can be subtle and ambiguous as well as direct and overt. It is NOT social or courting behavior. Sexual harassment may include:
- Inappropriate personal questions;
- Sexually stereotyped or sexually charged insults, humor or verbal abuse;
- Sexually explicit or suggestive remarks about a person’s physical attributes, clothing or behavior;
- Leering at or ogling a person’s body;
- Unwelcome touching;
- Any demeaning sexual propositions;
- Pressure exerted for sexual activity or for a relationship that takes on a sexual or romantic coloring, which exceeds the limits of a healthy adult-student or student-student friendship;
- Physical assault, or any coerced sexual relations.
Each School Community Member is Responsible for:
- Complying with this Policy, where applicable;
- Ensuring that they do not bully or harass another person on school grounds or in a school-related activity;
- Ensuring that they do not retaliate against any other person for reporting or filing a complaint, for aiding or encouraging the filing of a report or complaint, or for cooperating in an investigation of bullying or harassment; and
- Cooperating in the investigation of reports or complaints.
Each School Employee, Independent Contractor, and School Volunteer is ALSO Responsible for:
- Responding appropriately and intervening, if able to take action safely, when witnessing bullying or harassment on school grounds or in a school-related activity;
- Cooperating with Deerfield’s efforts to prevent and respond effectively to bullying or harassment; and
- Promptly reporting all information they know concerning possible bullying or harassment to a Designated School Official they witness or become aware of that conduct occurring on school grounds or in a school-related activity.
Protection Against Retaliation
Deerfield will take appropriate steps to protect from retaliation persons who take action consistent with this Policy or who report, file a complaint of, or cooperate in an investigation of a violation of this Policy. Threats or acts of retaliation, whether person-to-person, by electronic means, or through third parties, are serious offenses that will subject the violator to disciplinary and other corrective action.
Reporting and Resolution Process
Designated Officials for Reporting
The Dean of Students is responsible for receiving reports and complaints of violations of this Policy and sharing them with the Head of School. All reports or complaints of a violation of this Policy involving the Dean of Students should be filed with the Head of School.
- Any faculty, staff, independent contractor, or school volunteer who becomes aware or has a reasonable belief that bullying, harassment or retaliation has occurred on school property or in a school-related activity must promptly report the alleged incident(s) to a Designated Official.
- Any student or “other person (who is not a school employee, independent contractor or school volunteer) who becomes aware or has a reasonable belief that bullying or harassment has occurred on school property or in a school-related activity is strongly encouraged to promptly report the incident(s) to a Designated Official. In situations where a student or other person does not feel comfortable reporting the incident to a Designated Official, he/she/they may report it to a trusted school employee, who must promptly transmit the report to a Designated Official.
- Any school community member may also report alleged incidents of bullying directly to the Dean of Students or Head of School.
- When a report or complaint involves physical injury, the Dean of Students will promptly report the incident to the Head of School.
- Parents and/or legal guardians will be notified of any report involving their children.
Resolution Process: Determining Whether to Institute Formal or Informal Proceedings
- After the Dean of Students receives a complaint or report; they must determine whether to resolve the complaint, through Formal or Informal Proceedings including referring it to the Community Conduct Committee.
- If the Designated Official determines that (1) the allegation is serious enough that it appears to place the target or any other person at physical risk; (2) the incident has resulted in a criminal charge; (3) the incident involves a referral to the Department of Social Services; (4) or that a Formal Proceeding is otherwise appropriate under the circumstances, then the Designated Official must commence a Formal Proceeding under Section 9.5.5.
- For allegations or incidents that do not require a Formal Proceeding, the Dean of Students or their designee may at their discretion initiate an Informal Proceeding. If the Designated Official deems it appropriate, they may initiate an Informal Proceeding to effectively correct the problem. The primary focus of an Informal Proceeding is resolution through non-disciplinary corrective action, although a resolution may also include disciplinary action.
- Nothing in this Policy limits Deerfield from taking immediate interim disciplinary action as set forth in the school’s disciplinary code, policies or practices.
- Upon the initiation of an Informal Proceeding, the Designated Official will separately meet in a timely manner with the target and the subject of the complaint, and if students, advise their parent(s) or guardian(s) to tell them about the informal process, the nature of the complaint, explain the prohibition against retaliation, and determine the corrective action.
- If appropriate after adequate investigation, the Designated Official will propose a resolution and discuss it with the target or refer the matter to the Community Conduct Committee.
- A designated faculty member will monitor the situation and will follow up with the target to determine whether there are further incidents or concerns.
- If at any time after resolution the faculty member determines that the problem is not corrected, Deerfield may apply the Student Code of Conduct or commence a Formal Proceeding.
- File Retention: The Dean of Students will maintain a separate confidential file with information obtained through inquiry and investigation, and the resolution, if any, so long as all parties involved are associated with Deerfield. The Academy will also retain files for complaints that are resolved outside the informal proceeding process.
- The Designated Official will separately meet in a timely manner with the target and the subject of the complaint and, if students, communicate with their parent(s) or guardian(s) to tell them about the formal process and explain the prohibition against retaliation. The Designated Official will also explain that the investigation will be kept as confidential as possible, but that Deerfield cannot promise absolute confidentiality, and may not be able to withhold the target’s identity from the subject of the complaint, since such a promise could interfere with Deerfield’s ability to enforce its Policy, conduct a fair and thorough investigation, or impose disciplinary or suggested corrective action.
- A Designated Official will conduct an investigation to substantiate the allegations.
- If the complaint is substantiated, the Designated Official will decide, based on the investigative findings, on the appropriate action. In the alternative, the Designated Official may refer the matter to the Disciplinary Committee for findings and corrective action.
- The Dean of Students or Head of School will impose any disciplinary or corrective action based on the findings.
- If a complaint is substantiated, a report of the incident and its resolution will be placed in the offender’s student file.
- File Retention: Deerfield will maintain in a separate confidential file: the original completed Reporting/Complaint Form, investigatory interview notes and reports, findings made, the results of the investigation, including any decision for action, and other relevant investigatory materials for five years after the parties have disassociated themselves with Deerfield. The Academy will also retain files for complaints that are resolved outside the formal proceeding process.
- A Designated Official will monitor the situation, and determine whether there are further incidents or concerns, and whether the corrective action imposed has been effective.
- Any right of appeal from a disciplinary decision is governed by the Student Handbook.
Investigations for Formal Proceedings
- Prompt and Thorough Investigations: Except where Informal Proceedings are initiated, the Dean of Students or their designee will promptly investigate all reports or complaints of an alleged violation of this Policy (even where the offender is unknown), as set forth below. The nature and duration of an investigation will depend on the circumstances, including the type, severity and frequency of the alleged conduct. The goal of an investigation is to obtain an accurate and complete account of all incidents and circumstances deemed relevant to the allegations of the complaint. No complaint is considered frivolous; on the other hand, culpability is never presumed. These procedures are intended to protect the rights of a victim and the rights of a wrongfully accused individual.
- Opening Investigations: Upon receipt of a report or complaint, a Designated Official will promptly undertake an investigation or authorize a third party designated by the Dean of Students to undertake an investigation.
- Victim Non-Cooperation: Where a violation of the Policy has been reported by a third party and the alleged victim fails to cooperate with the investigation, or denies the incident occurred, disciplinary and corrective action may be precluded, or limited, depending on the circumstances and the availability of information from other sources.
- False Charges: Any person who makes knowingly false charges or brings a malicious complaint is subject to disciplinary and/or corrective action.
Basis for Determining Whether Policy Violated
The Designated Official or the Disciplinary Committee, as the case may be, will determine whether a particular action or incident constitutes a violation of this Policy. The determination will be based on all the facts and surrounding circumstances, including the context, nature, frequency and severity of the behavior, how long the conduct continued, where the incident(s) occurred, the number of persons involved in the wrongful conduct, the ages of and relationships between the parties, past incidents or patterns of behavior, and whether the conduct adversely affected the education or school environment of the victim or other school community member.
Deerfield will respect the privacy of the target, the subject(s) of the complaint, and the witnesses to the extent possible consistent with its obligations under federal and state law and regulations, and its Policy to investigate, report, and take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action, and consistent with applicable and state and federal confidentiality laws and student record regulations. Reports may be made anonymously.
Disciplinary & Corrective Action
Imposing Disciplinary and Corrective Action
If a Designated Official concludes that the subject of the complaint has violated this Policy, Deerfield will in a timely manner impose disciplinary measures and/or corrective action reasonably calculated to end the complained of conduct, deter future conduct, and protect the target(s) and other similarly situated individuals. In imposing disciplinary and corrective measures, Deerfield will take into account harm the victim and other members of the school community suffered and any damage to school climate or property.
Action Concerning Students
Disciplinary and corrective action concerning a student may include, but is not limited to, an apology to the victim; awareness training (to help students understand the impact of their behavior); participation in empathy development, cultural diversity, anti-harassment, anti-bullying or intergroup relations programs; mandatory counseling, a written warning; classroom or dorm transfer; short-term or long-term suspension; exclusion from participation in school sponsored functions, and/or extracurricular activities; limiting or denying access to a part or area of a school; exclusion, expulsion, discharge from school; and/or, referral to law enforcement.
Action Concerning Other School Community Members
Corrective action concerning any other school community member, including parents and legal guardians of students, and visitors may include, but is not limited to, a warning; counseling; employment termination; exclusion from the campus and limiting or denying the parent, guardian or visitor’s access to school premises or school-related activities.
Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan
Deerfield’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (“Plan”) is embodied in this policy. In the coming months Deerfield will be formulating a comprehensive approach to address bullying, harassment, hazing and teasing. Deerfield is committed to working with the entire school community, parents and/or guardians to prevent, intervene and respond to incidents of bullying, hazing, harassment and teasing. Deerfield will seek input from everyone in the school community, parents/guardians before implementing any changes to the plan.