Chapter 76, Section 5 of the Massachusetts General Laws prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, and perceived sexual orientation in all Massachusetts schools which accept students from the general public, regardless of whether the discrimination comes from students or employees. Similarly, Chapter 151C, which defines fair educational practices, prohibits sexual harassment by public school teachers, staff, or other students. Violations of this law can be brought to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), a state agency that does not require the parties to have a lawyer.
Schools are also required to take certain steps to prevent the harassment of LGBT students, per the Code of Massachusetts Regulations 603 CMR 26.00, Access to Equal Educational Opportunity (www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr26.html?section=01). In particular, the Code requires that schools have policies in place to ensure discrimination and harassment complaints are investigated promptly, and also requires schools to educate staff annually on harassment prevention and appropriate methods of responding to harassment in a school environment.
In May 2010, Massachusetts implemented one of the strongest anti-bullying laws (Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010. See http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter92) in the country. It has strict requirements that schools must follow to protect students from a wide variety of bullying, be it physical, verbal, or online. Many of these requirements apply to all schools, whether public, private, or charter. Some of the key provisions of the law include:
- Every school, with the exception of some private schools, must have in place a comprehensive anti-bullying policy;
- A student’s parents or guardians must be notified if the school learns that they have been bullied;
- Teachers and other school staff must receive training on how to handle bullying, and are required to report bullying to the administration;
- Each school must teach students about bullying.
For detailed information about this law, see GLAD’s publication, Massachusetts Students: What To Do If You’re Being Bullied.