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ACT NO. 113

(H.270)

Disruptive Behavior in School; Truancy; Minimum School Age; Expulsion; Alternate Programs; Weapons in Schools; Services for Delinquent Youth; Restrictive Behavioral Intervention; Bomb Threats

This act directs the State Board of Education to: share information about educational programs and practices designed to create and sustain a safe learning environment; strengthen requirements for teacher training in classroom management, understanding of disabilities, working with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, and working with students with challenging behaviors; and encourage experienced teachers to seek further training in these areas and to mentor new teachers about these issues.

The act directs each public school to adopt and implement a comprehensive plan on classroom management and response to disruptive behavior, provision of information to students on conflict resolution, procedures for informing parents of the school’s discipline policies, a response to threats or use of weapons, training to staff on how to maintain a safe learning environment, a description of the forms of misconduct, including hazing and harassment, that may be grounds for expulsion, and due process procedures. It changes the law permitting expulsion of a pupil for the remainder of the school year so as to permit suspension for up to 10 days without board approval and expulsion for up to 90 school days or the remainder of the school year, whichever is longer, with board approval. The act also makes it clear that certain misconduct off school property may be grounds for expulsion, and authorizes schools to provide alternate programs during suspension or expulsion. If a student who has been suspended or expelled transfers to another school, that school may choose to continue the suspension or expulsion. Annual school reports are to include information about unexcused absences, student discipline, and secondary school dropout and graduation rates.

The act clarifies that a comprehensive system of education may include a separate alternative program and recognizes that some students who have difficulty learning in a traditional school setting due to educational, personal or emotional reasons may be better served in an environment outside the classroom. It further clarifies that the educational support system shall provide clear procedures for handling students who are disruptive to the learning environment and establishes that such procedures may include removal of the student from the school after a reasonable effort has been made to support the student in the regular classroom environment.

This act directs school boards to adopt policies regarding weapons in schools; increases the penalty for individuals who carry dangerous or deadly weapons into school buildings and establishes that a second offense is a felony; expands weapons prohibition and penalties to school buses; prohibits possession of a weapon on school grounds with intent to injure and establishes that a second offense is a felony; allows the school board or a school administrator to authorize possession of weapons for specific occasions; and requires suspension of a drivers license for a person under 18 or a student who circulates a bomb threat.

The act allows the Commissioner of Education to award grants to school districts, if funds are available, to work with community groups to prevent violent youth behavior, establish intervention techniques, and provide alternative discipline techniques for violent students. It directs the Commissioner of Education to develop a training program for early detection of potentially violent students and for handling of students who act out; to develop a model plan on school discipline strategies, a model policy on viewing of confidential records, and a model policy on the possession of dangerous weapons on school grounds; to collect information about alternative programs and make recommendations to the general assembly about regulating the quality of their services; and to gather data on the use of restrictive behavioral intervention programs in Vermont schools.

The act directs the Commissioners of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) and of Education and the Court Administrator to develop a plan to decriminalize truancy, to establish services designed to encourage students to remain in school, and to provide assistance to families to support this goal It also decreases the minimum age for school attendance from seven to six years old.

The Commissioner of Education and the Secretary of Human Services are directed to evaluate each region’s services for delinquent youth and youth at risk of becoming delinquent, and to encourage each region to fill identified service gaps.

Finally, the act appropriates $10,000.00 to the Commissioner of Education to provide training on harassment and hazing, $30,000.00 to the Commissioner of SRS to track educational outcomes for children in custody, and $315,000.00 to establish a residential program serving youth with severe substance abuse problems.

Effective Date: July 1, 2000