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Greater Boston PFLAG
P.O. Box 541619
Waltham, MA

Tel: 781-891-5966
Fax: 781-891-7444
Helpline: 866-427-3524

Tax ID#: 04-3272394


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Anti-gay Bullying Guidance Issued by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

In response to two widely reported suicides in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts legislature passed its sweeping Bullying Prevention Law in 2010.  Among other provisions, the law mandated notification of a bullying incident to the parents of both the perpetrator and the victim, and directed the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to adopt regulations governing parent notification.  

Proposed regulations were published by the DESE. Several LGBT advocacy groups, including Greater Boston PFLAG, submitted letters of comment expressing concern about victim parent notification when the bullying incident involves an attack on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Read Greater Boston PFLAG’s comment letter.

At the September 21, 2010 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Board adopted the proposed regulations and directed the DESE to consult with the groups who had submitted comment letters to develop additional guidance and technical assistance to address LGBT groups’ concerns.  

On January 25, 2011 the Massachusetts DESE unveiled its Guidance on Notifying Parents When a Student Has Been Bullied Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Expression. Read the full text of the Guidance.

Greater Boston PFLAG is very proud to have played a leadership role in convincing the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that anti-gay bullying incidents should have a specialized process for victim parent notification because of the elevated risks that are associated with parental rejection.  Additionally, Greater Boston PFLAG is very pleased that virtually all of its recommendations were adopted.

Highlights of the DESE guidance:  

  • School officials must make a notification plan before a gay child's parents are notified about a bullying incident.  There are certain steps required when the plan is constructed, including consultation with the child.  
  • All school officials involved in the bullying prevention process need to have training on the importance of parental acceptance in reducing the risk of harm to the child, and schools are asked to designate a person who will serve as a trained on-site resource person when constructing a bullying incident notice to a student attacked because he or she is gay or is perceived to be gay.
  • The form and process of giving notice are designed to reduce the risk of harm the child and, to the extent possible, protect his or her privacy wishes. 
  • The schools will be encouraged to maintain and provide a list of potential counseling and other referral services to assist parents and families if they are troubled by learning that they have a gay child.  
  • Other recommendations for training regarding sexual orientation issues and the links between bullying, parent rejection and elevated LGBT youth risk as documented by recent research are included in the guidance.