Educational Services and Reference Area
Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan
Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc
Hillcrest operates residential treatment and non-residential therapeutic special education programs in Berkshire County for severely emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered youth.
Our mission at Hillcrest Educational Centers is to facilitate the social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual growth of our students through the development of new skills that will enable them to experience the future in less restrictive settings.
Hillcrest is different from other public and/or private schools in that its students are typically admitted because they have exhibited severely aggressive behaviors, often including bullying. Hillcrest's treatment/intervention approach is based on the premise challenging behaviors are the result of chronic abuse/neglect and/or developmental disabilities. At Hillcrest, we strive to help our students gain an understanding into their treatment issues and provide them with the skills they need to cope with their everyday stressors in a non-violent, constructive manner.
Hillcrest understands that there are a number of factors that make our students vulnerable to bullying. We will take specific steps to create a safe, supportive environment for all of our students, and provide them with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing.
We will not tolerate any unlawful or disruptive behavior, including any form of bullying, cyber-bullying, or retaliation, in our school buildings, on school grounds, or in school-related activities. We will investigate promptly all reports and complaints of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation, and take prompt action to end that behavior and restore the target's sense of safety. We will support this commitment in all aspects of our school community, including curricula, instructional programs, staff development, extracurricular activities, and parent or guardian involvement.
Our Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan ("Plan") is a comprehensive approach to bullying and we are committed to working with students, staff, families, law enforcement agencies, and the community to prevent violence. In consultation with these constituencies, we have established this Plan for preventing, intervening, and responding to incidents of bullying, cyber-bullying, and retaliation. Campus Administration is responsible for the implementation and oversight of the Plan.
There are basic components to our treatment approach, physical environment, and campus structure that naturally insure the prevention of bullying and cyber-bullying including, but not limited to:
- High student-to-staff ratios (no less than 3:1, and often 2:1). Students are kept within eyesight of staff at all times.
- All students (not at Housatonic Academy) receive weekly individual therapy where they are provided a safe environment to disclose incidents of bullying.
- All students participate in regular group therapy that addresses issues related to social skill development, assertiveness, self-esteem, violence, safety, etc.
- Cell phones are prohibited.
- Students do not have access to computers and/or the internet without direct adult supervision.
- All living and classroom spaces are under video surveillance for added security and safety.
- All campus staff are trained and certified in our two major treatment/intervention programs - Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) and Skills For Life (SFL), which promote therapeutic responses to any threat of aggressive and/or bullying behavior. Both programs include structured processes for preventing and responding to instances of violence and/or bullying. (see Appendices A and B)
- All pre-meditated acts of aggression, including bullying, are subject to a Panel Review of administrators, clinicians, teachers, and other relevant staff to determine corrective action/consequences ranging from relationship repair to the involvement of the local authorities.
In addition to its residential programs, Hillcrest operates a day treatment program, Housatonic Academy, that provides education and therapeutic services to emotionally/behaviorally disturbed children and adolescents from local school districts.
HEC programs are approved and/or licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Education (Chapter 766), and the residential programs are all licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. All Hillcrest programs are accredited in Behavioral Healthcare by the Joint Commission.
Highpoint's Sex Offender Treatment Program in Lenox serves adolescent males exhibiting sexualized and sexually abusive behaviors, representing a potential risk to the well being of others. Sex-abuser specific treatment focuses on helping students gain control over their sexually abusive, manipulative, aggressive and exploitative behaviors.
The Highpoint program works with students who have developed sexualized patterns of behavior and are therefore at risk for becoming compulsive, abusive and dangerous if their offending and assaultive cycles are not effectively interrupted. For some of the youth, control of deviant sexual impulses will represent a life long management issue for which the development relapse prevention skills and techniques are critical.
Hillcrest Center in Lenox treats boys and girls with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances. Most of the children have suffered long term and often extreme emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. A large majority have experienced multiple, failed placements at a variety of levels of care.
Some of the students have organic impairments, and many have serious learning disabilities. Hillcrest Center specializes in treating students who exhibit physically and sexually impulsive and aggressive behaviors. Within an intensely structured, therapeutic, nurturing environment, and with high staff ratios, students learn the appropriate social skills and self-control necessary to function in a less restrictive setting. The counter productive behaviors that caused these students to fail in the past are managed and replaced with alternative, productive behaviors so that they are able to experience success and safely grow.
INTENSIVE TREATMENT UNIT
The Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) in Great Barrington provides crisis stabilization and hospital diversion services. The ITU also serves as a diagnostic and assessment unit for students who may need initial evaluation prior to placement at one of the Hillcrest campuses, or for students who are experiencing difficulties managing behavior at their home campuses.
The ITU ensures a safe environment for children who are acting self-destructively and/or acting out aggressively towards others. By increasing intensity of expectations, the depth of interactions and demands for compliance, the ITU provides a potential turning point for the child to focus on individual treatment issues. Treatment seeks to generate an internalized sense of safety by identifying emotional distortions, clarifying thought patterns about upsetting experiences and building self-control strategies that will be effective in a less restrictive setting. Conflicts in the milieu provide a safe and appropriate setting for teaching the child to analyze maladaptive behaviors and develop new interpersonal skills. Each student is assessed and treatment recommendations are developed.
Finally, the ITU prepares the student to return to a less restrictive setting. Emotional preparation and planning for discharge are part of daily discussions from the time of admission.
Skills Assessment and Development
Developing a comprehensive understanding of each individual, their strengths and challenges, and the specific influences to their difficulties is a primary, and ongoing component of treatment. The Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (Greene and Ablon), along with supporting assessment tools, are utilized to facilitate this process, and to guide the treatment/intervention planning for each student. Through this process a thorough understanding of strengths, resources and limitations is acquired and a plan to help develop skills and resources while not overwhelming one's resources can be initiated.
The core skills that are focused upon throughout all HEC campuses include: independent living/functional skills, academic skills, and the skills identified in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) (Linehan): Mindfulness, Emotional Management, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
Trauma Informed Care (TIC)
When the environment is very overwhelming, as is often the case when a person experiences trauma, attachment disruption, loss, domestic violence or abuse, the result can be significant impact on the development of the person's skills and resources. Exposure to those who have experienced these events has impact on others in the community.
A trauma informed environment requires an understanding of trauma and considers its effects, at the personal, individual, and societal levels. As trauma and loss are, at their core, violations of interpersonal connection, the HEC community focuses on developing healthy relationships with others. Within these healthy relationships, motivation, healthy sense of self, and connections to others and the community are developed. Other primary intervention approaches from the TIC philosophy include psycho-education about trauma/vicarious trauma and its effects, understanding the influence of individual trauma histories, making meaning from these difficult experiences, developing self-awareness, developing skills and resources to manage more effectively, and proactively planning for safety.
Communication, Notification, and Student/Parent/Guardian Involvement
Hillcrest Clinical staff maintain regular communication with all parents/guardians for general updates and treatment progress reports. Incidents of physical aggression and/or bullying are communicated within 24 hours whether their child/client is the perpetrator or victim. Parents/guardians, who are inherent members of their child/client's treatment team, are encouraged to participate in the processing/repair of an incident.
Any incident involving an allegation of serious assault, injury, or criminal activity is subject to a formal investigation per Hillcrest Policy and DEEC regulation.
Parents are invited to visit their child at any time, and our clinical staff are available to meet with parents at their convenience for any reason. Hillcrest has a FaCT Committee (Family Centered Treatment) with parent members to help enhance communication and support for families. Families are invited to several Parent Advisory Groups throughout the year, as well as numerous other family support opportunities.
All students will participate in a psycho-educational group to learn about and discuss the prevention of and appropriate responses to bullying. Students at each campus, driven by their respective Student Council, participate in "Anti-Bullying" campaigns regularly.
Student Handbooks include the following procedures for communicating a grievance or reporting an incident of bullying:
"STUDENT GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES:
Students of Hillcrest have the right to voice their concerns/complaints, without fear or reprisal. There are several people on the campus that can help you with this. If you have concerns that your rights have been violated, you were mistreated, you are a victim of bullying, or you did not receive adequate care, you may file a grievance. Your concerns must be communicated to your clinician. Your clinician will review the grievance and within 24 hours, will notify the appropriate individuals, who will then conduct the investigation of the allegation. These individuals may include, but are not limited to, Supervisors, Assistant Program Directors, Program Directors and the Human Rights Representative on your campus. Upon receipt of the grievance, the Human Rights Representative will only be involved if it appears that the grievance involves a violation of your rights. The primary role of the individual is to advise those people investigating your grievance. You are free, at any time, to notify your agency, lawyer or guardian of your concerns."