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NO. 120. AN ACT RELATING TO THE CRIME OF HAZING.

(S.76)

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

Sec. 1. STATEMENT OF POLICY

The general assembly has been made increasingly aware that harassment and hazing have become a major and pervasive problem within our schools, and that students who are continually filled with apprehension and anxiety are unable to learn and unlikely to succeed. Therefore, it is the policy of the state of Vermont that all Vermont educational institutions provide safe, orderly, civil and positive learning environments. Harassment, hazing and bullying have no place and will not be tolerated in Vermont schools. No Vermont student should feel threatened or be discriminated against while enrolled in a Vermont school.

Sec. 2. 16 V.S.A. § 11(a)(30) is added to read:

(30) “Hazing” means any act committed by a person, whether individually or in concert with others, against a student in connection with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization which is affiliated with an educational institution; and which is intended to have the effect of, or should reasonably be expected to have the effect of, humiliating, intimidating or demeaning the student or endangering the mental or physical health of a student. Hazing also includes soliciting, directing, aiding, or otherwise participating actively or passively in the above acts. Hazing may occur on or off the campus of an educational institution. Hazing shall not include any activity or conduct that furthers legitimate curricular, extracurricular, or military training program goals, provided that:

(1) the goals are approved by the educational institution; and

(2) the activity or conduct furthers the goals in a manner that is appropriate, contemplated by the educational institution, and normal and customary for similar programs at other educational institutions.

The definitions of educational institution, organization, pledging, and student shall be the same as those in section 151 of this title.

Sec. 3. 16 V.S.A. § 164 is amended to read:

§ 164. STATE BOARD, GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES

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:

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(17) Report annually on the condition of education statewide and on a school by school basis. The report shall include information on attainment of standards for student performance adopted under subdivision 164(9) of this section, number and types of complaints of harassment or hazing made pursuant to section 565 of this title and responses to the complaints, financial resources and expenditures, and community social indicators. The report shall be organized and presented in a way that is easily understandable by the general public and that enables each school to determine its strengths and weaknesses. The commissioner shall use the information in the report in determining whether students in each school are provided educational opportunities substantially equal to those provided in other schools pursuant to subsection 165(b) of this title.

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Sec. 4. 16 V.S.A. § 165 is amended to read:

§ 165. STANDARDS OF QUALITY FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS; EQUAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

(a) In order to carry out Vermont's policy that all Vermont children will be afforded educational opportunities which are substantially equal in quality, each Vermont public school, including each technical center, shall meet the following school quality standards:

(1) The school shall, through a process including parents, teachers, students and community members, develop *[and]*, implement, and annually update a comprehensive action plan to improve student performance within the school. The plan shall include goals and objectives for improved student learning and educational strategies and activities to achieve their goals. The plan shall also address the effectiveness of efforts made since the previous action plan to ensure the school maintains a safe, orderly, civil and positive learning environment which is free from harassment, hazing and bullying. The school shall assess student performance under the plan using a method or methods of assessment developed under subdivision 164(9) of this title.

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(8) The school maintains a safe, orderly, civil and positive learning environment, which is free from hazing, harassment and bullying, and based on sound instructional and classroom management practices and clear discipline policies that are consistently and effectively enforced.

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(e) If the commissioner determines at any time that the failure of a school to meet the school quality standards listed in subsection (a) of this section is severe or pervasive, potentially results in physical or emotional harm to students or significant deprivation of equal education opportunities, and the school has either unreasonably refused to remedy the problem or its efforts have proved ineffective, he or she may recommend to the state board one or more of the actions listed in subsection (b) of this section. The state board shall then follow the procedure of subsection (c) of this section.

Sec. 5. 16 V.S.A. § 166(e) is amended to read:

(e) The board of trustees of an independent school operating in Vermont shall adopt harassment and hazing prevention policies, establish procedures for dealing with harassment and hazing of students and provide notice of these *[as provided in]* . The provisions of section 565 of this title for public schools shall apply to this subsection, except that the board shall follow its own procedures for adopting policy.

Sec. 6. 16 V.S.A. § 565 is amended to read:

§ 565. HARASSMENT *[POLICY]* AND HAZING PREVENTION POLICIES

(a) It is the policy of the state of Vermont that all Vermont educational institutions provide safe, orderly, civil and positive learning environments. Harassment, hazing and bullying have no place and will not be tolerated in Vermont schools. No Vermont student should feel threatened or be discriminated against while enrolled in a Vermont school.

(b) Each school board shall develop, adopt, ensure the enforcement of, and make available in the manner described under subdivision 563(1) of this title *[a harassment policy which includes]* harassment and hazing prevention policies which shall be at least as stringent as model policies developed by the commissioner. In this section, the definitions of educational institution, organization, pledging, and student shall be the same as those in section 151 of this title.

(1) The harassment prevention policy shall include:

(A) A statement prohibiting *[unlawful]* harassment of a student.

*[(2)]*(B) The definition of harassment pursuant to subdivision 11(a)(26) of this title. *[(3)]*(C) Consequences and appropriate remedial action for staff or students who commit harassment.

(D) A procedure that directs students and staff how to report violations and file complaints.

(E) A procedure for investigating reports of violations and complaints.

(F) A description of how the board will ensure that teachers and other staff members receive training in preventing, recognizing and responding to harassment.

(2) The hazing prevention policy shall include:

(A) A statement that hazing, as defined in subdivision 11(a)(30) of this title, is prohibited.

(B) A procedure that directs students and staff how to report violations and file complaints.

(C) A procedure for investigating reports of violations and complaints.

(D) Circumstances under which hazing may be reported to a law enforcement agency.

(E) Appropriate penalties or sanctions, or both, for organizations which or individuals who engage in hazing, and revocation or suspension of an organization’s permission to operate or exist within the institution’s purview, if that organization knowingly permits, authorizes, or condones hazing.

(F) A description of how the board will ensure that teachers and other staff members receive training in preventing, recognizing and responding to hazing.

*[(b)]*(c) Each school district shall establish rules setting forth procedures for dealing with harassment and hazing of students*[. The rules shall]* which include:

(1) *[Procedures for reporting harassment of students, including annual]* Annual designation of two or more people within the institution to receive complaints and a procedure for publicizing those people's availability.

(2) A procedure for publicizing the availability of the Vermont human rights commission and the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and other appropriate state and federal agencies to receive complaints of harassment.

(3) A statement that acts of retaliation for reporting of harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of harassment is unlawful pursuant to subdivision 4503(a)(5) of Title 9.

*[(c)]*(d) *[The]* Annually, prior to the commencement of curricular and cocurricular activities, the school board shall provide notice of the policy and procedures developed under this section to students, custodial parents or guardians of students, and staff members. Notice to students shall be in age-appropriate language and should include examples of harassment and hazing. At a minimum, this notice shall appear in any publication of the school district that sets forth the comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for the school. The board shall use its discretion in developing and initiating age-appropriate programs to effectively inform students *[and staff]* about the substance of the policy and procedures in order to help prevent harassment, and hazing. *[The harassment policies and procedures shall be implemented by August 1, 1995.]* *[(d) For purposes of this section, staff means teachers, support staff, administrators, agents of the school, board members and unpaid volunteers.]*

(e) The commissioner shall develop and, from time to time, update model harassment and hazing prevention policies.

Sec. 7. 16 V.S.A. § 2182 is amended to read:

§ 2182. HARASSMENT *[POLICY]* AND HAZING PREVENTION POLICIES

(a) The board of trustees of the Vermont state colleges shall adopt and ensure the enforcement of a policy which establishes that harassment as defined in *[section]* subdivision 11(a)(26) of this title is a form of unlawful discrimination and therefore prohibited. The board shall also require the establishment of procedures for the handling of complaints of discriminatory harassment and the initiation of educational programs designed to prevent such conduct. The policies and procedures shall be in effect by January 1, 1996.

(b) The board of trustees of the Vermont state colleges shall adopt and ensure the enforcement of a policy prohibiting hazing which contains a definition of hazing that is at least as stringent as the definition contained in subdivision11(a)(30) of this title. The policy shall include appropriate penalties or sanctions, or both, for organizations which or individuals who engage in hazing; revocation or suspension of an organization’s permission to operate or exist within the institution’s purview if that organization knowingly permits, authorizes, or condones hazing; and clear delineation of circumstances under which hazing will be reported to a law enforcement agency. A summary of the policy shall be distributed to all students at least annually.

Sec. 8. 16 V.S.A. § 2284 is amended to read:

§ 2284. HARASSMENT *[POLICY]* AND HAZING PREVENTION POLICIES

(a) The board of trustees shall adopt and ensure the enforcement of a policy which establishes that harassment as defined in *[section]* subdivision 11(a)(26) of this title is a form of unlawful discrimination and therefore prohibited. The board shall also require the establishment of procedures for the handling of complaints of discriminatory harassment and the initiation of educational programs designed to prevent such conduct. The policies and procedures shall be in effect by January 1, 1996.

(b) The board of trustees shall adopt and ensure the enforcement of a policy prohibiting hazing which contains a definition of hazing that is at least as stringent as the definition contained in subdivision 11(a)(30) of this title. The policy shall include appropriate penalties or sanctions, or both, for organizations which or individuals who engage in hazing; revocation or suspension of an organization’s permission to operate or exist within the institution’s purview if that organization knowingly permits, authorizes, or condones hazing; and clear delineation of circumstances under which hazing will be reported to a law enforcement agency. A summary of the policy shall be distributed to all students at least annually.

Sec. 9. 16 V.S.A. chapter 1, subchapter 9 is added to read:

Subchapter 9. Hazing

§ 151. DEFINITIONS

As used in this subchapter:

(1) “Educational institution” means a Vermont public or independent school, or a postsecondary school which offers or operates a program of college or professional education for credit or a degree in Vermont.

(2) “Organization” means a fraternity, sorority, athletic team, association, corporation, order, society, corps, cooperative, club, or other similar group, whose members primarily are students at an educational institution, and which is affiliated with the educational institution.

(3) “Pledging” means any action or activity related to becoming a member of an organization.

(4) “Student” means any person who:

(A) is registered in or in attendance at an educational institution;

(B) has been accepted for admission at the educational institution where the hazing incident occurs; or

(C) intends to attend an educational institution during any of its regular sessions after an official academic break.

§ 152. UNLAWFUL CONDUCT

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, “hazing” means any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, whether individually or in concert with others, against another student:

(1) in connection with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization which is affiliated with the educational institution; and

(2) which is intended to have the effect of, or should reasonably be expected to have the effect of, endangering the mental or physical health of the student.

(b) Hazing shall not include any activity or conduct that furthers legitimate curricular, extracurricular, or military training program goals, provided that:

(1) the goals are approved by the educational institution; and

(2) the activity or conduct furthers the goals in a manner that is appropriate, contemplated by the educational institution, and normal and customary for similar programs at other educational institutions.

(c) It shall be unlawful to:

(1) engage in hazing;

(2) solicit, direct, aid, or attempt to aid, or abet another person engaged in hazing; or

(3) knowingly fail to take reasonable measures within the scope of the person’s authority to prevent hazing.

(d) It is not a defense in an action under this subchapter that the person against whom the hazing was directed consented to or acquiesced in the hazing activity.

§ 153. CIVIL PENALTY; JUDICIAL BUREAU; WAIVER PENALTY

(a) A person who commits an unlawful act under this subchapter shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000.00.

(b) Any law enforcement officer may issue a summons and complaint for an act of hazing, which shall be heard by the judicial bureau pursuant to the procedures provided in chapter 29 of Title 4.

(c) The court administrator shall appoint a panel of judicial bureau hearing officers to establish a waiver penalty for an act of hazing.

(d) Nothing in this section shall limit or affect the right of an educational institution to enforce its own penalties against hazing.

§ 154. CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND CIVIL ACTION

Nothing in this subchapter shall limit or preclude a criminal prosecution or any criminal or civil action based on any act that may constitute hazing.

Sec. 10. 4 V.S.A. § 1102(b)(7) is added to read:

(7) violations of 16 V.S.A. chapter 1, subchapter 9, related to hazing.

Sec. 11. EFFECTIVE DATES

(a) On or before January 1, 2001, the commissioner of education shall develop and disseminate to school districts, model harassment and hazing prevention policies and procedures.

(b) On or before August 1, 2001, each school district board shall adopt revised harassment prevention policies if necessary, to come into compliance with the model policy adopted by the commissioner. On or before August 1, 2001, each school district board shall adopt hazing prevention policies at least as stringent as the model policy adopted by the commissioner.

Sec. 12. DISTRIBUTION OF ACT

Within 30 days of passage of this act, the commissioner shall distribute to each school district:

(1) a copy of the act;

(2) a summary of the act’s provisions; and

(3) answers to frequently asked questions about hazing and harassment in schools.

Approved: May 19, 2000