Hampton School District (SAU 90)
Superintendent Kathleen Murphy
7 Scott Road
Hampton, NH 03842
Hampton Public Schools Announces Completion of Administrative Review of Racially-Motivated Bullying Incident
Superintendent Pledges to Implement Report’s Action Items and Recommendations
HAMPTON — Superintendent Kathleen Murphy announces that an independent administrative review of the facts and circumstances surrounding allegations of racial bullying against a former student and the district’s response to those allegations has been completed. The report found that incidents of racially-motivated bullying did occur against the student, both inside and outside of the school and that the district took the incidents seriously, investigated and provided various supports to the student, but that there are areas where there is room for improvement.
Superintendent Murphy, who commissioned the report, accepts the findings. The report also includes a list of recommended action items that the district has already begun implementing.
“I committed in the spring to do a thorough review of the facts and circumstances,” Superintendent Murphy said. “I want to make sure the changes that are necessary to protect our students are made to prevent such a situation from occurring in the future.”
The report, which is an administrative review and not a criminal or legal investigation, is based on a review of the district’s policies and on information provided by the district in interviews and through information gathering sessions. The review is not an exhaustive report of every allegation and incident and is meant to be an overview only, with a primary goal to offer the district possible corrective action recommendations to improve the delivery of educational services moving forward.
The report is being released in its entirety with only legally-mandated redactions. The report can obtained at the SAU 90 Office.
Summary of Facts and Circumstances
Upon receiving reports of racial bullying involving two students in fall 2016, district faculty and staff met with the parents of the students involved. Both sets of parents claimed their child was bullied during the incident, and the district was unable to corroborate either report.
In December 2016 plans were put in place to limit the interactions between the two students– standard procedure in schools when two students are in conflict.
The school district took an active role working with the students, the families and the classroom teacher to provide support and resources for the students.
An additional incident was reported to the district in 2018 involving a third student who allegedly made a racially-insensitive comment about the affected student to a classmate. As a result of the incident, a behavior form was written up about the aggressor student’s actions.
While the situation was taken seriously as an act of aggression from one student to another, administrators did not file an “initial bullying reporting form” as soon as the bullying was first reported. Plainly stated, the district did not classify the actions as “bullying” from the onset.
The district continued to offer the affected student counseling support, monitor the situation and report back to the student’s parents following the reported incident.
However, the administrative review found that the district did not adequately communicate the steps it took to address these issues with the affected student’s family and did not adequately communicate its conclusions with the family. The report recommends that the district improve the detail and immediacy of its communications with families.
“This situation has greatly disturbed our community, and rightly so,” Superintendent Murphy said. “Bullying and racial discrimination are unacceptable, and it is deeply upsetting that this situation developed in our school district. We cannot simply say ‘we did all we could do.’ We must learn from every situation and make improvements whenever possible.”
The district commissioned the independent administrative review this spring in an effort to better understand the facts and events surrounding this incident. The district also desired to learn what it could do better in the future and what it could do to prevent re-occurrence of bullying and racial bullying.
The review made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the district’s existing policies and procedures, to prevent future instances of bullying, to better handle and communicate any future incidents and to promote a community of inclusion and acceptance. Those recommendations include:
- Add the words “recognizing,” “understanding,” and “embracing” to the Hampton School District’s Mission Statement in an effort to promote a better understanding of diversity and acceptance. It’s recommended the district review the mission statement annually.
- Recruit a more racially diverse faculty.
- Continue with sensitivity and diversity training throughout the district for not only faculty, staff, and students but add the community at large whenever possible.
- Implement a policy and re-train faculty and staff on the requirement that an “initial bullying reporting form” must be filled out immediately upon receiving information that a possible bullying incident has taken place or is taking place. The building principal will be immediately informed and given the completed reporting form.
- All employees should be retrained regarding the district’s Bullying Policy to develop a better understanding of the policy as well as the district’s expectations should a bullying incident be reported.
- Using a workshop, train district principals in the area of understanding the importance of written communication and follow-up. This includes maintaining both internal and external communication with the families of those who have been victimized by bulling. It is important principals immediately notify the family of a student who has been victimized by bullying, and a time-sensitive action plan should be provided at that time. Follow up with the family sharing outcomes of the investigation must also be required. The superintendent shall be copied on all correspondence.
- Create a social media specialist position. This will help promote social programs the schools within the district have. Updating district and school websites and keeping them current by using social media sites is a positive way to communicate to parents and community members the lessons being taught as it relates to diversity in the community.
“As our district continues to heal from this difficult chapter, we hope the recommendations in this review can support us as we become a more accepting, supportive school community,” Superintendent Murphy said. “It is critical that each and every student feels welcome in order for that individual to succeed, feel appreciated and included within our district. We already are and will continue to take steps to make sure that is a reality within our schools.”
Since spring 2019, all Hampton School District staff have undergone training on the district’s bullying policy, as well as a full day training on racial equity. District leadership also participated in two days of training from New Hampshire Listens, an initiative by the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Police to support and promote civic engagement. The school board is additionally reviewing and amending the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention- Bullying policy, and is also working to develop a Title VI complaint procedure.
The district has also been notified that the Office of Civil Rights is investigating this matter. The Hampton School District is cooperating fully with the Office of Civil Rights.