Download this document in MS Word 97 format

NO. 113. AN ACT RELATING TO SUPPORTING SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS IN VERMONT SCHOOLS.

(H.270)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. STATEMENT OF POLICY

The general assembly recognizes that many family, school and community factors contribute to the well-being of Vermont children. Therefore, it is the purpose of this act to help districts in their efforts to maintain a safe learning environment in all Vermont public schools through appropriate student learning opportunities, appropriate prevention and intervention strategies, the availability of alternative education programs, effective discipline policies and opportunities for community-wide training.

Sec. 1a. 16 V.S.A. § 164(10) is amended to read:

The state board shall have supervision over, and management of the department of education and the public school system, except as otherwise provided; and shall:

* * *

(10) Establish an information clearinghouse and accessible database to help districts share information about educational programs and practices which improve student performance. Educational programs and practices include those designed to create and sustain a safe learning environment.

Sec. 1b. 16 V.S.A. § 165(a)(2) is amended to read:

(2) The school, at least annually, reports student performance results to community members in a format selected by the school board. In the case of a regional technical center, the community means the school districts in the service region. The school report shall include:

* * *

(H) a description of how the school ensures that each student receives appropriate career counseling and program information regarding availability of education and apprenticeship program offerings at technical centers*[, and]* ;

(I) if the school is a secondary school, data describing student participation in technical education, regional job opportunities and the number of graduates from the previous year who have entered post-secondary education, the military and the job market; and

(J) information and supporting data presented in a manner designed to protect student confidentiality on the following:

(i) student attendance, including unexcused absences;

(ii) student discipline; and

(iii) if the school is a secondary school, dropout and graduation rates.

Sec. 2. 16 V.S.A. § 563 is amended to read:

§ 563. POWERS OF SCHOOL BOARDS

The school board of a school district, in addition to other duties and authority specifically assigned by law:

* * *

(5) Shall keep the school buildings and grounds in good repair, suitably equipped, insured and in safe and sanitary condition at all times. The school board shall regulate or prohibit firearms or other dangerous or deadly weapons on school premises. At a minimum, a school board shall adopt and implement a policy *[pursuant to]* at least consistent with section 1166 of this title and section 4004 of Title 13, relating to a student who brings a weapon to school.

* * *

Sec. 3. 16 V.S.A. § 1121 is amended to read:

§ 1121. ATTENDANCE BY CHILDREN OF SCHOOL AGE REQUIRED

A person having the control of a child between the ages of *[seven]* six and *[sixteen]* 16 years shall cause the child to attend *[an approved]* a public school, an approved or recognized independent school or a home study program for the full number of days for which that school is held, unless the child:

(1) is mentally or physically unable so to attend; or

(2) has completed the tenth grade; or

(3) is excused by the superintendent or a majority of the school directors as provided in this chapter; or

(4) is enrolled in and attending a postsecondary school, as defined in subdivision 176(b)(1) of this title, which is approved or accredited in Vermont or another state.

Sec. 4. 16 V.S.A. § 1126 is amended to read:

§ 1126. FAILURE TO ATTEND; NOTICE BY TEACHER

When a pupil between the ages of *[seven]* six and *[sixteen]* 16 years, who is not excused or exempted from school attendance, fails to enter school at the beginning thereof, or being enrolled, fails to attend the same, and when a pupil who has become *[sixteen]* 16 years of age becomes enrolled in a public school and fails to attend, the teacher or principal shall forthwith notify the superintendent or school directors, and the truant officer, unless the teacher or principal is satisfied upon information that the pupil is absent on account of sickness.

Sec. 5. 16 V.S.A. § 1128(a) is amended to read:

(a) A superintendent may and the truant officer shall stop a child between the ages of *[seven]* six and *[sixteen]* 16 years or a child *[sixteen]* 16 years of age or over and enrolled in public school, wherever found during school hours, and shall, unless such child is excused or exempted from school attendance, take *[him]* the child to the school which she or he should attend.

Sec. 5a. 16 V.S.A. chapter 25, subchapter 4 is redesignated to read:

Subchapter 4. Effective Discipline Measures

Sec. 6. 16 V.S.A. § 1161a(a) is amended to read:

(a) Each public and each approved independent school shall *[have a policy on discipline. The policy shall include standard due process procedures, and it shall be consistent with this section and with the school board's policies on suspension and expulsion.]* adopt and implement a comprehensive plan for responding to student misbehavior. To the extent appropriate, the plan shall promote the positive development of youth. The plan shall include:

(1) the school’s approach to classroom management and response to disruptive behavior, including the use of alternative educational settings;

(2) the manner in which the school will provide information and training to students in methods of conflict resolution, peer mediation and anger management;

(3) procedures for informing parents of the school’s discipline policies, for notifying parents of student misconduct, and for working with parents to improve student behavior;

(4) the school’s response to significant disruptions, such as threats or use of bombs or weapons;

(5) a description of how the school will ensure that all staff and contractors who routinely have unsupervised contact with students periodically receive training on the maintenance of a safe, orderly, civil and positive learning environment. The training shall be appropriate to the role of the staff member being trained and shall teach classroom and behavior management, enforcement of the school’s discipline policies and positive youth development models;

(6) a description of behaviors on and off school grounds which constitute misconduct, including harassment and hazing, particularly those behaviors which may be grounds for expulsion; and

(7) standard due process procedures for suspension and expulsion of a student.

Sec. 7. 16 V.S.A. § 1162 is amended to read:

§ 1162. SUSPENSION OR EXPULSION OF PUPILS

(a) A superintendent or principal may, pursuant to policies adopted by the school board that are consistent with state board rules, suspend a pupil for *[a definite period of time]* up to 10 school days or, with the approval of the board of the school district, expel a pupil for the remainder of the school year or up to 90 school days, whichever is longer, for misconduct on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored activity when the misconduct makes the continued presence of the pupil harmful to the welfare of the school or for misconduct not on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored activity where direct harm to the welfare of the school can be demonstrated. Nothing contained in this section shall prevent a superintendent or principal, subject to subsequent due process procedures, from removing immediately from a school a pupil who poses a continuing danger to persons or property or an ongoing threat of disrupting the academic process of the school, or from expelling a pupil who brings a weapon to school pursuant to section 1166 of this title.

(b) Principals, superintendents and school boards are authorized and encouraged to provide alternative education services or programs to students during any period of suspension or expulsion authorized under this section.

Sec. 8. 16 V.S.A. § 1163 is added to read:

§ 1163. TRANSFER OF SUSPENSION OR EXPULSION TO OTHER SCHOOLS

(a) If a student transfers from one Vermont school to another, a Vermont public or independent school, following application by the student and a review of whether or not the school can provide the student with appropriate services, may choose to continue a suspension or expulsion imposed by the other Vermont public or independent school.

(b) During a period of suspension or expulsion imposed under section 1162 of this title, a student, or parent or guardian, shall not be subject to the provisions of subchapter 3 of this chapter regarding compulsory attendance at school unless the conditions of the suspension or expulsion include participation in a program in the school or an alternative program outside the school. Further, nothing in this section shall prohibit a suspended or expelled student from applying to a different Vermont public or independent school during the period of suspension or expulsion and attending if accepted.

(c) A school district which provides for the education of a suspended or expelled student by paying tuition to an approved public or independent school may, at the discretion of the school board, provide for the education of the student during the period of suspension or expulsion by paying tuition to another approved public or independent school.

Sec. 9. 16 V.S.A. § 2901(a) is amended to read:

(a) It is the policy of the state that each local school district develop and maintain, in consultation with parents, a comprehensive system of education that will result, to the extent appropriate, in all students succeeding in the general education environment. *[This chapter does not require that a child remain in the regular classroom if the child]* A comprehensive system of education includes a full range of services and accommodations which are needed by students in the district. These services could include a separate alternative program if the district finds that some of its students could be better served in an environment outside the classroom, or if the district finds that separate placement is the best way to provide services to a student who is disrupting the class or having difficulty learning in a traditional school setting for educational, emotional or personal reasons and thereby impairing the ability of the classroom teacher to provide quality services to that student or to the other pupils. This chapter does not replace or expand entitlements created by federal law, nor is it the intent of this chapter to create a higher standard for maintaining a student in the general classroom than the standard created in the following federal laws: 20 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq., Individuals with Disabilities Act; 29 U.S.C. § 794, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; and 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sec. 10. 16 V.S.A. § 2902(b) is amended to read:

(b) The educational support system shall:

* * *

(4) Provide clear procedures and methods for handling a student who *[disrupts a class]* is disruptive to the learning environment and shall include provision of educational options, support services and consultation or training for staff where appropriate. Procedures may include provision for removal of the student from the classroom or the school building for as long as appropriate, consistent with state and federal law and the school’s policy on student discipline, and after reasonable effort has been made to support the student in the regular classroom environment.

* * *

Sec. 11. 13 V.S.A. § 4004 is amended to read:

§ 4004. *[BY PERSONS AT SCHOOL]* POSSESSION OF DANGEROUS OR DEADLY WEAPON IN A SCHOOL BUS OR SCHOOL BUILDING OR ON SCHOOL PROPERTY

(a) *[A person who carries or has in his or her possession a firearm, dirk knife, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous or deadly weapon while within a school building, shall be imprisoned not more than 60 days or fined not more than $500.00, or both; however, the board of school directors may authorize the possession and use of firearms or other weapons for specific occasions or for instructional purposes when facilities for such instruction are available.]* No person shall knowingly possess a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon while within a school building or on a school bus. A person who violates this section shall, for the first offense, be imprisoned not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both, and for a second or subsequent offense shall be imprisoned not more than three years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both.

(b) No person shall knowingly possess a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon on any school property with the intent to injure another person. A person who violates this section shall, for the first offense, be imprisoned not more than two years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both, and for a second or subsequent offense shall be imprisoned not more than three years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both.

(c) This section shall not apply to:

(1) A law enforcement officer while engaged in law enforcement duties.

(2) Possession and use of firearms or dangerous or deadly weapons if the board of school directors, or the superintendent or principal if delegated authority to do so by the board, authorizes possession or use for specific occasions or for instructional or other specific purposes.

(d) As used in this section:

(1) “School property” means any property owned by a school, including motor vehicles.

(2) “Owned by the school” means owned, leased, controlled or subcontracted by the school.

(3) “Dangerous or deadly weapon” has the meaning defined in section 4016 of this title.

(4) “Firearm” has the meaning defined in section 4016 of this title.

(5) “Law enforcement officer” has the meaning defined in section 4016 of this title.

(e) The provisions of this section shall not limit or restrict any prosecution for any other offense, including simple assault or aggravated assault.

Sec. 12. TRAINING FOR PREVENTION OF SCHOOL VIOLENCE AND DISRUPTION

The commissioner of education, in consultation with the secretary of human services and commissioner of public safety, shall develop training in the early identification and remediation of potentially violent or disruptive students, methods for de-escalation of violent or disruptive situations, and mediation and other conflict resolution measures. To the extent possible, the commissioner shall use materials and resources, such as those already developed through the BEST initiative, designed for working with potentially violent or disruptive students. The commissioner shall make the training available on a regional basis to school superintendents, school principals, and other representatives of local school districts who agree to transmit the training to their local school districts, including providing information and training to teaching and nonteaching school staff, and to parents, school board members, and other members of the community.

Sec. 13. EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT; STANDARDS BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS; STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

(a) The state board of education and standards board for professional educators shall clarify and strengthen requirements for teacher and administrator training in basic classroom management, understanding of disabilities and special needs, instructional and curricular adaptations and accommodations, working with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, prevention of behavior problems, and working with students who exhibit challenging behaviors.

(b) The commissioner of education, in the next guidebook for local standards board for professional educators shall recommend that each board encourage teachers, in developing their individual professional development plans, to consider the need for further training in classroom management, understanding of disabilities and special needs, adaptations and accommodations, dealing with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, prevention of behavior problems, and handling of students who exhibit challenging behaviors.

(c) The commissioner of education shall encourage school administrators to ensure that experienced teachers are available to help newer teachers learn effective classroom management skills, and that experienced teachers avail themselves of ongoing professional development opportunities in this area.

(d) The commissioner of education shall meet with representatives of superintendents, the court system, the department of public safety, social and rehabilitation services, and the department of developmental and mental health services, and representatives of the education and juvenile justice communities to develop policies, possible recommendations for legislative change, and internal procedures and training that should be put into place to ensure timely exchange of appropriate information about a student’s behavior which may be needed to ensure the safety of other students or in order to be able to provide timely intervention or alternative educational or other services.

(e) The commissioner of education and chair of the state board of education shall report the results of work carried out under this section to the Senate and House committees on education by January 15, 2001.

Sec. 14. COLLABORATIVE COMMUNITY DEMONSTRATION PROJECTS; GRANTS

(a) The commissioner of education, in consultation with the secretary of human services, the court administrator and the commissioner of public safety, may, if funds are available, award grants to school districts or groups of school districts which collaborate with parent groups, local human services agencies, court personnel and law enforcement agencies and other community agencies to establish demonstration projects. The projects shall be designed to increase collaborative community approaches to:

(1) preventing violent behavior in youth;

(2) intervening appropriately and effectively when violent behavior occurs; and

(3) providing alternative discipline techniques for violent students.

(b) In determining which applicants shall receive grants, the commissioner shall give priority to those which demonstrate the highest degree of need based on community indicators or reports to the commissioner that confirm significantly high rates of violence, suspension, expulsion or school dropouts.

Sec. 15. MODEL POLICIES AND PLAN; DATA COLLECTION

(a) The commissioner of education, in consultation with the Vermont principals association, the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont national education association and the Vermont coalition for disability rights shall, by January 15, 2001, develop and distribute model plans on school discipline and implementation strategies. Model plans shall include a variety of in-school and out-of-school disciplinary measures which, in addition to addressing standard due process procedures, shall provide guidance in:

(1) preventing and responding to the problems caused by violent or disruptive students;

(2) describing which behaviors constitute misconduct both on and off school grounds; and

(3) establishing procedures for responding to misconduct.

(b) On or before January 15, 2001, the state board of education shall develop and distribute a model policy on viewing of confidential records with personally identifiable information and training of personnel who may be identified, pursuant to federal law, as those who may view the records.

(c) The commissioner of education, in consultation with the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont national education association, the Vermont principals association and representatives of law enforcement and gun owners shall develop a model policy for distribution to Vermont school boards on the possession of dangerous and deadly weapons on school grounds. In addition, the commissioner shall disseminate written information which explains the federal and state laws regarding weapons on school grounds for use by Vermont school boards and school administrators. The commissioner shall distribute the model policy to all school boards by the beginning of school year 2001-2002.

(d) The commissioner of education shall gather data from each school district in order to help policy makers understand the scope of the truancy and dropout problems in Vermont. The commissioner shall work with others in the education community to develop a common definition of “truancy” and “dropout” for the purpose of collecting data.

(e) The commissioner of education shall seek funds to:

(1) Review the national research on alternative learning environments.

(2) Describe the nature of Vermont alternative programs. This should include information about the process that went into designing each program, and describe alternatives that were considered or tried and rejected.

(3) Determine whether existing alternatives do and can successfully operate within the current laws and regulations governing public and independent schools.

(4) Describe the cost, funding and finance structures of Vermont’s alternative programs.

(5) Based on its research, develop recommendations on the following:

(A) Whether alternative programs should be held to standards which are different from those to which other public schools are held, and if so:

(i) a description of how the standards will ensure that the alternative program standards allow the flexibility needed to provide services in an alternative way, while also ensuring that the students receive a quality education in a safe environment; and

(ii) a clear definition of an alternative program which would be held to the alternate standards.

(B) Changes that may be needed to the education finance structure.

(C) A system which would enable the department of education to:

(i) annually gather information about alternative learning programs, and use the results of the survey to identify unmet needs and best practices; and

(ii) monitor, evaluate the effectiveness of, and approve alternative programs to ensure that they are providing a quality education.

(6) On or before January 15, 2001, report to the Senate and House Committees on Education the information gathered, recommendations, and recommended legislation and appropriations to implement the recommendations.

Sec. 16. DECRIMINALIZATION OF TRUANCY; PLAN

(a) It is the intent of the general assembly to decriminalize truancy, and to replace the current truancy system with one that encourages students to remain in school until graduation and provides assistance to families in reaching this goal. It is further the intent of the general assembly that the truancy system begin with adoption by school boards of local or regional comprehensive truancy policies that address the timing and content of responses to truancy and implementation of the policies through the development, collaboratively with a truant student’s family and the student, of an individualized plan designed to achieve regular school attendance by the student. If the student or family either fails to cooperate in the development of the plan, or fails to act in conformance with the plan, a petition could be filed in court to gain cooperation or enforce the plan. The court should have broad remedial authority to issue orders reasonably designed to bring about regular school attendance by the student. The individuals charged in subsection (b) of this section with designing the system shall consider whether the courts should have authority to condition a truant student’s driving privileges upon regular school attendance.

(b) The commissioner of social and rehabilitation services, the commissioner of education and the court administrator, in consultation with the state’s attorneys association, juvenile defender and representatives of law enforcement, shall develop a plan to implement the intent of this section, and shall provide a recommended system together with recommended statutory change to the general assembly on or before January 15, 2001.

Sec. 17. COMPREHENSIVE ARRAY OF SERVICES FOR YOUTH AT RISK OF BECOMING DELINQUENT AND YOUTH ADJUDICATED DELINQUENT; POLICY

It is the policy of the general assembly that each region of the state shall provide a comprehensive and complete array of services for youth at risk of becoming delinquent, and those who have been adjudicated delinquent. It is further the policy of the general assembly that these services be delivered in a manner to enable these youth to graduate from high school and to become successful members of their community. Therefore, the commissioner of education and the secretary of human services shall evaluate the services provided in each region, evaluate the relative responsibility for funding of the services, identify gaps in services, and whenever possible, provide support and encouragement to help each region provide services which fill the gaps and programs based on risk assessment that include asset and strength based approaches which promote positive youth development.

Sec. 18. USE OF RESTRICTIVE BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTIONS

(a) The commissioner of education shall collect data on the use of restrictive behavioral interventions in Vermont schools during the 2000-2001 school year. This data shall be collected in a manner and form determined by the commissioner in consultation with the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont principals association, the Vermont special education administrators association, the Vermont-national education association, the Vermont coalition for disability rights, and others at the discretion of the commissioner.

(b) In consultation with these parties, the commissioner shall review the data and make recommendations to the Senate and House Committees on Education on or before October 1, 2001, regarding:

(1) legislation or regulations governing the use of restrictive behavioral interventions in Vermont schools;

(2) ongoing annual data collection regarding the use of restrictive behavioral interventions; and

(3) any changes in model plans on school discipline required under Sec. 15 of this act.

Sec. 19. APPROPRIATIONS

(a) The amount of $10,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education for the purpose of increasing the capacity of the department of education safe schools coordinator to train education personnel on the subjects of harassment and hazing.

(b) In fiscal year 2001, the amount of $30,000.00 is to be appropriated from the general fund on a one-time basis to the commissioner of social and rehabilitation services to identify the appropriate data and outcome measures to track educational outcomes for children in custody, and to implement a system for ongoing tracking of those measures.

(c) It is the intent of the general assembly, that $315,000.00 of funds appropriated to the commissioner of social and rehabilitation services in the FY2001 appropriations act be used to establish a residential program serving youth with severe substance abuse problems. It is further the intent that the funds shall be used to add 10 to 12 beds to the capacity of the residential care system for children in custody as part of an effort to restore needed bed space lost in 1995. The commissioner shall ensure that the additional bed space shall not adversely impact current residential programs in Vermont.

(d) The amount of $50,000.00 is appropriated on a one-time basis from the general fund in FY 2000 to the commissioner of education for the purpose of conducting research pursuant to Sec. 16(e) of this act. However, it is the intent that the commissioner shall seek to obtain other funding sources for this purpose and shall report to the joint fiscal committee and the chairs of the education committees on the results of this effort by November 10, 2000.

Sec. 20. 13 V.S.A. § 1753 is amended to read:

§ 1753. FALSE PUBLIC ALARMS

(a) A person who initiates or willfully circulates a report of warning of an impending bombing or other offense or catastrophe, knowing that the report or warning is false or baseless and that it is likely to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transport, or to cause public inconvenience or alarm, shall, for the first offense, be imprisoned for not more than two years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both. For the second or subsequent offense, the person shall be imprisoned for not more than five years or fined not more than $10,000.00, or both. In addition, the court may order the person to perform community service. Any community service ordered under this section shall be supervised by the department of corrections.

(b) In addition, if the person is under 18 years of age, or if the person is enrolled in a public school, an approved or recognized independent school, a home study program, or tutorial program as those terms are defined in section 11 of Title 16:

(1) if the person has a motor vehicle operator’s license issued under chapter 9 of Title 23, the commissioner of motor vehicles shall suspend the license for 180 days for a first offense and two years for a second offense; or

(2) if the person does not qualify for a license because the person is underage, the commissioner of motor vehicles shall delay the person’s eligibility to obtain a drivers license for 180 days for the first offense and two years for the second offense.

Approved: May 18, 2000