Benchmark School Parent Policy

Introduction

The following policies outline the School’s policies against Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation and for accommodations for students with disabilities.  The policies set forth and compliance and investigation procedures pursuant to the School’s obligations under the terms of its SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan.  For more information on the School’s obligations, please review the SBA Non-Discrimination Compliance Policy on our Website.  These policies will be in effect until the SBA PPP Loan has been satisfied in full.

No Harassment Policy

The School is dedicated to fostering an environment that promotes kindness, acceptance, and embraces differences among individuals.  Therefore, the School will not tolerate any type of harassment by a student, employee, or any third party (including vendors, contractors, donors, volunteers, parents, and visitors).  Students should be aware that their off-campus behavior is also covered under this policy, regardless of when and where the conduct occurred or who was affected by the student’s inappropriate behavior.  Harassment is broadly defined to include unreasonable conduct or behavior that is personally offensive or threatening, impairs morale, or interferes with the educational environment of students and includes, but is not limited to, slurs, jokes, comments, teasing, and other offensive conduct relating to race, color, age, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or disability.  Harassment can take place between individuals of the same gender or different genders.  Harassment also includes sexual harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Demanding sexual favors
  • Requests for pictures of a sexual nature. Sexual nature includes but is not limited to nude pictures or pictures showing one’s genitalia or private body parts.
  • Taking, sending, or posting images of a sexual nature without consent
  • Spreading lies or information about another individual’s sexual activity
  • Coercing sexual activity by threat of punishment or offer of reward
  • Forced sexual activity
  • Obscene or sexually suggestive graffiti
  • Displaying or sending pornographic pictures or objects
  • Offensive touching, pinching, grabbing, kissing or hugging
  • Restraining someone’s movement in a sexual way
  • Sexual or lewd jokes, remarks, leering, whistling, brushing against the body, or other suggestive or insulting gestures or comments about another’s body
  • Intimidating or suggestive remarks about an individual’s gender, gender identity, or gender expression whether actual or implied.

Examples of other forms of harassment based on race, color, age, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or disability include, but are not limited to:

  • Offensive, intimidating, or inappropriate comments, postings, or conduct relating to race, ethnicity, or color (using racial slurs, racial or ethnic jokes, comments, name calling based on race or ethnicity, etc.)
  • Offensive, intimidating, or inappropriate comments, postings, or conduct teasing or joking about another person’s disability, failure to speak English clearly, religious background, practices, clothing, or beliefs, or similar behaviors.

Harassment can occur through any type of communications method, including face-to-face communications, phone, text, email, postings on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, GroupMe, etc.), camera phones, or other forms of technology.  The communications can be direct or indirect, such as through friends or others. Any such offensive conduct, whether on or off campus, on a school bus, or at a school-related event, can constitute harassment.  

It is the responsibility of all members of the community to ensure that their words, actions, and interactions with others always reflect the intent to promote respect and trust.  Attempts to justify behavior as a “prank” or “joke” do not change its harassing nature if the object of the joke or prank is not a willing participant.  Whatever the basis for the harassment, it is prohibited.  

In addition, no faculty member, coach, or other employee is authorized to engage in any of the conduct prohibited in this policy, to engage in overly-friendly personal interactions with you, text or email with you about non-school related matters, enter into a sexual or romantic relationship with you, or ask you to meet with them off campus or in unsupervised areas of campus.  Faculty members, coaches, and other employees are also not allowed to make any academic or disciplinary decision based in any way on a student’s submission to or rejection of sexual or romantic conduct or advances.  No faculty member, coach, or other employee has the authority to suggest to any student that the student’s continued attendance or future advancement will be affected in any way because the student enters into or refuses to enter into a form of sexual or other personal relationship with the faculty member or other employee.

All concerns relating to harassment (or if bullying is on the basis of one of the grounds set forth in this policy) should be reported immediately to one of the School’s Compliance Officer:  Bandana Jha, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Benchmark School, 2107 North Providence Road, Media, PA, 19063-1898, 610-565-3741, bandanajha@benchmarkschool.org.  It is preferred but not required that complaints be made in writing.  A complaint form is available from the individuals listed above.  We also expect that anyone, whether student, faculty, staff or family member who witnesses, or has knowledge of an incident of harassment, will report the incident to the appropriate individual identified above.  

When the School administration becomes aware of harassment, the situation will be promptly investigated as confidentially as reasonably possible.  Any student found to have violated this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal from school for serious violations, even in the case of a single expression, act, or gesture.  Conduct need not meet the legal definition of harassment to violate the School’s expectations for appropriate behavior and be actionable.  No adverse action will be taken against any person who makes a good faith report of harassment.  Retaliation in any form against anyone for making a complaint under this policy or for participating in an investigation is strictly prohibited.  Any retaliation should also be reported pursuant to this policy and is itself a cause for disciplinary action.

Sexual Misconduct

We are committed to creating a learning environment characterized by safety, trust, and respect for all. Sexual misconduct whether between students or adults and students is contrary to the standards and ideals of our community and will not be tolerated. Sexual misconduct includes any of the following types of activities:

  • Any sexual activity between students and adults;
  • Any sexual activity between age appropriate students for which clear and voluntary consent has not been given in advance or in which consent has been exceeded;
  • Any sexual activity with someone who is incapable of giving valid consent because, for example, that person is under the age of consent, sleeping, or otherwise incapacitated or impaired;
  • Any act of sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking;
  • Any digital media stalking and/or the non-consensual recording of sexual behavior and the non-consensual sharing of any recording; or
  • Non-consensual sexual advances and propositions, or other undesirable verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. (See the School’s Harassment/Bullying policy for additional information on sexual harassment).

Consent is defined as an affirmative, unambiguous, informed, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity. Consent can be revoked at any time. However, sexual conduct between or among students that is unwanted, offensive, or makes a student uncomfortable, whether it occurs on or off campus, and affects the student’s ability to be comfortable in the school environment is a violation of our School values.

All concerns relating to sexual misconduct should be reported immediately to the School’s Compliance Officer: Bandana Jha, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Benchmark School, 2107 North Providence Road, Media, PA, 19063-1898, 610-565-3741, or email her at bandanajha@benchmarkschool.org. It is preferred but not required that complaints be made in writing.  A complaint form is available from the individuals listed above.  We also expect that anyone, whether student, faculty, staff or family member who witnesses, or has knowledge of an incident of harassment, will report the incident to the appropriate individual identified above.  

Reports of sexual misconduct or sexual assault are taken seriously; the safety and well-being of our students is our first priority. Parents and students who become aware of any form of sexual misconduct, whether on or off campus, should also immediately report the information to the appropriate Division Head or the Head of School. In accordance with Pennsylvania state law, the School reports suspected instances of sexual misconduct to ChildLine and/or local law enforcement.

Upon a report of student-to-student sexual misconduct, including harassment, the School will provide interim support and reasonable protective measures to support the complainant and/or the accused party and the safety of the community. Until all procedures have been completed, the complainant and the accused must avoid all unnecessary contact.   If the School determines at any stage that a student poses a threat of harm or disruption to the school community, the School may take immediate action, including removing the student from School, restricting the student’s movement on campus, and so on. 

As stated elsewhere, the School expects that students will treat all persons with dignity both at School and beyond.  The School reserves the right to take action if it learns that a student’s actions violate the School’s rules and expectations, regardless of when and where the conduct occurred or who was affected by the student’s inappropriate behavior.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The School does not discriminate in admission to, access to, treatment in, participation in, or employment in its services, programs and activities, on the basis of race, color, age, national origin, sex, religion, or disability/handicap. The School further does not discriminate on the basis of a person’s citizenship status or genetic information.  

Discrimination occurs when the School’s actions, procedures, policies or employees treat an individual adversely in an educational context solely on the basis of the individual's race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability or handicap.

To file a complaint alleging discrimination by the School on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or disability, please contact: Bandana Jha, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Benchmark School, 2107 North Providence Road, Media, PA, 19063-1898, 610-565-3741, or email her at bandanajha@benchmarkschool.org.

Investigation and Anti-Retaliation

When the School administration becomes aware of harassment or discrimination, the situation will be promptly investigated.  Any student found to have violated the School policies prohibiting harassment or discrimination will be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal from school for serious violations, even in the case of a single expression, act, or gesture.  Conduct need not meet the legal definition of harassment or discrimination to violate the School’s expectations for appropriate behavior and be actionable.  No adverse action will be taken against any person who makes a good faith report of harassment or discrimination.  Retaliation in any form against anyone for making a complaint under the School’s policies or for participating in an investigation is strictly prohibited.  Any retaliation should also be reported pursuant to this policy and is itself a cause for disciplinary action.

Services for Students with Disabilities

We understand that there may be new circumstances that arise, or accommodations that are not already in place, which may cause a parent to request that the School provide an adjustment or accommodation for a student’s medical needs or physical, mental, or learning disability.   As the range of requests has grown over the years, the School believes that it is appropriate at this time to outline the School’s policy and general guidelines for addressing such requests. 

General Policy:  In general, it is our School’s policy to provide accommodations or adjustments for a student’s minor needs in circumstances in which the administration determines, in its sole discretion, that doing so is within the reasonable ability of the School and/or its staff and will not result in a significant disruption to the teacher’s ability to instruct other students, to classroom or school order and discipline, will not result in a threat of harm to the safety of other students or employees, will not require a fundamental change to our educational environment or mission, and will not impose responsibilities on school employees for which they are not trained or could not reasonably become trained.  We also ask parents to realize that, given the size of our school and our available resources, we may not be able to provide all requested accommodations.  To the extent we agree to provide accommodations, we may require a sharing of responsibility for the accommodation.  

Interactive Process and Accommodation Plan:  Once a request for accommodation is received, the School will enter into the interactive process with the parent (and possibly student) to discuss the need and information that the School will need (discussed below).  Once the documentation is provided, the appropriate personnel at the School will assess the accommodation requests and determine what accommodations can/should be provided at school, at home, and through third-party providers.  After discussing these issues with the parent and coming to an agreement on the terms, the School will set forth the agreement in an Accommodation Plan, which will be signed by the School and the parent and will be distributed to those persons needing to implement the accommodations.
Request and Documentation:  For any type of accommodation (including administration of medication at school), the parent must contact the Section 504 Compliance Officer:  Bandana Jha, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Benchmark School, 2107 North Providence Road, Media, PA, 19063-1898, 610-565-3741, or email her at bandanajha@benchmarkschool.org, to discuss the need.  The Compliance Officer will then assemble the appropriate persons to work through the process.  The School will advise the parent of the type of medical documentation needed, which generally will state the student’s diagnosis, how the condition limits the student, the recommended accommodations, and the length of time that the accommodation(s) will be needed.  

Release for Communications with Physician:  Sometimes, the documentation received from the physician may raise questions or be unclear as to the recommendations.  In that case, the School will request that the parent(s) sign a Release of Information form, permitting the School to contact the medical professional, when necessary.  In addition, if there is any cost associated with the physician’s cooperation (i.e., to answer a set of questions submitted, etc.), the parent must agree to bear the cost of such process.

Assessment of Request:  Once the parent’s request and medical documentation has been received by the School, appropriate persons within the administration will meet with the parents to clarify information and to discuss whether the School will be able to implement the accommodation requested.   In some cases, the parent may be asked to provide (at the parent’s cost) any special or personal equipment needed, training for the school’s staff, or other associated matters.  In addition, the School may advise the parent that the School will allow a particular accommodation, but the full responsibility for doing so will rest with the parent.  For example, if the student needs to medical testing or have certain types of medicines administered during the day that the School believes are beyond the scope of the School’s responsibility, the School may allow the parent to make arrangements to visit the campus for the purpose of testing and administering.

Limitations on Requests:  Please understand that the School is not a medical facility and does not have the personnel, training, or equipment to handle certain types of medical procedures best left to the student, parent, or physician.  Examples of accommodations made for students include appropriate classroom locations, extended time on tests, use of computers, and/or dispensing with medication through the Clinic.

Concerns or Complaints.  If a parent believes that the accommodation request has not been handled properly or that the Accommodation Plan has not been implemented properly, the parent should contact the Section 504 Compliance Officer set forth above for further assistance.  The parent may also make a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights and/or the Small Business Association as set forth in the SBA Non-Discrimination Policy on the School’s website.