Maine's School Laws
There are two laws in Maine that prohibit school bullying:
If your child is being harassed or bullied because of his/her sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, national origin or race, that is discriminaton. Two other laws will also apply: the Maine Human Rights Act and the federal Civil Rights Act. Learn more here.
Bullying can be words, acts, gestures, or writings (on paper, cell phone or computer) that is directed at your child. Those behaviors must cause your child to:
- be physically injured or
- have his/her property damaged
OR, have a "reasonable person"
- be in fear of being hurt or having his/her property damaged
OR, cause your child to:
- not do well academically
- not go to school
- not be in school activities, or
- feel like school is a "hostile educational environment"
Maine law requires every public school district to have a policy that prohibits bullying on school grounds, at a school event, or on school transportation. The policy should also talk about bullying or cyberbullying that happens out of school or a school event IF your child feels school is a "hostile educational environment" because of the bullying that is happening out of school.
Only school boards can make school policies. The school board must make sure its anti-bullying policy is consistent with the Maine Department of Education Model Policy. You can find that model policy here. Your school district's anti-bullying policy must include:
- a prohibition on bullying and harassment
- a prohibition on retaliating against someone who complains about bullying
- a prohibition against falsely accusing someone of bullying
- making the superintendent responsible for making sure the policy is implemented. The superintendent can choose someone else in the school to do this. This may be the principal. The school must make it known who that person is.
- a requirement that school staff, coaches and advisors tell the school principal about acts of bullying
- the process for how a student, school staff, parents or others report bullying and to be able to make an anonymous report
- a procedure for quickly looking into a report of bullying, including a written response with the outcome of the investigation
- the possibility of disciplinary action including "alternative discipline"
- the process for an appeal of the decision to either take or not take disciplinary action against the bully
- a procedure to lower the risk of future bullying and to give services to the victim of bully or the bully if those services will help fix the bad effect of the bullying
- a way for the school to tell the parent of a victim of bullying what steps are being taken by the school to keep the victim safe, and
- a procedure for the school to make a report to the police if staff believe the acts were criminal or discriminatory
The school's anti-bullying policy must be given to you (as parents), the students, volunteers, and school staff every year. The policy must be posted on the school's public website and written in the student handbook.
Every year, each public school district must send a report of all the incidents of bullying it found to have happened to the Maine Department of Education. The report will not list student names or identifying information. The report will say what each incident of bullying was and what actions the school took.
What is "Alternative Discipline"
This is disciplinary action that is not a suspension or expulsion. The goal of alternative discipline is to change the bully's behavior while keeping him or her in school. Examples of "alternative discipline" are:
- meet with the bully and his/her parent
- mediation (if you and your child are willing)
- community service
- skill building activities
- writing an essay about why bullying is hurtful and wrong
Hazing means a reckless or intentional act that hurts your child mentally or physically. The "violator" can be a student, school staff, or someone who is at school. Every public school board in Maine must have a policy that prohibits hazing. The policy must have penalties. If the "violator" is a student or school staff, disciplinary action must be taken. If the "violator" is someone who is at school but not a student or staff, that person must be removed from school property. If the "violator" is a school group, the school must take away permission for that group to function at school.
The anti-hazing policy must be given to your child. It may be part of the student handbook. The superintendent must make sure the policy is being followed. If you think your child is being hazed at school, you need to get a copy of the anti-hazing policy. Follow the complaint process that is written in the policy. If you are unhappy with the final decision, the policy must have a process to appeal. Appeal means challenge the decision. The process may be to go to the school board for the appeal.
What You Can Do On Your Own
Even if you want to make a complaint to the school and the school follows the anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies, you can do things on your own as well. You can always try to stop the bullying by contacting the other student's parent. If you cannot work something out, and the bullying is severe, you may be able to get help from:
- the police
- the Court or
You can ask for a cease harrasment order from the police. This is sometimes called a 506-A Order. It can last for 1 year.
You can also start a Court case for a Protection from Harassment Order (PFH). For a PFH, Maine law defines "harassment" as:
- 3 or more intentional acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force or threat of physical force that causes the victim to be afraid or intimidated or that damaged property.
OR, one of these crimes:
- aiding or soliciting suicide
- assault or aggravated assault
- criminal threatening
- reckless conduct that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to someone else
- gross sexual assault
- criminal restraint
- not following a 506-A Order
- violation of privacy
- criminal mischief
You can also make a report to the police if you think a crime was committed. The police can investigate. It will be up to the District Attorney's office to decide if criminal charges will be brought against the bully.
Where Can I Go For Help?
If you are not happy with the school's response, you should follow the appeal process in the school's anti-bullying policy. If you are still unhappy, you may want to go to your school board, or contact the Maine Department of Education or a private attorney.
If you need help with a PFH, you should contact a private attorney.
Updated April 2013