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Introduced by   Representatives Lippert of Hinesburg, Pugh of S. Burlington, Ancel of Calais, Cheney of Norwich, Clarkson of Woodstock, Emmons of Springfield, Evans of Essex, French of Randolph, Grad of Moretown, Hosford of Waitsfield, Hunt of Essex, Jerman of Essex, Larson of Burlington, Myers of Essex, Pellett of Chester, Sweaney of Windsor and Weston of Burlington

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Judiciary; bullying; cyberbullying; civil violation; discrimination; human rights commission

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to establish bullying of students by students as a civil violation; grant the human rights commission authority to ensure that educational institutions are complying with state antiharassment laws; and clarify the legal standard required to prove harassment in an educational institution under the public accommodations statute.


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

* * * Bullying; Cyberbullying * * *

Sec. 1.  16 V.S.A. chapter 1, subchapter 10 is added to read:

Subchapter 10.  Bullying


As used in this subchapter:

(1)  “Bullying” means any overt, intentional, or reckless act or combination of acts committed by any student or group of students directed against another student that:

(A)  is repeated over time;

(B)  is intended to ridicule, humiliate, threaten, or intimidate the student or is intended to have the effect of, or could reasonably be expected to have the effect of, endangering the mental or physical health of the student; and

(C)  occurs:

(i)  during the school day on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity;

(ii)  before or after the school day on a school bus or at a school‑sponsored activity; or

(iii)  at any location if the acts have a direct and negative impact on a student’s academic performance or access to school services, including acts of cyberbullying involving the use of a land line, a car telephone, a wireless telephone, a software application or internet service that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network, a camera or video recording device, or any other form of technology, whether or not the use occurs on or involves school property.

(2)  “Educational institution” means a Vermont public or independent school.

(3)  “Student” means any person enrolled in or in attendance at an educational institution regardless of whether the student is physically present in an educational institution at the time the bullying occurs.


The department of education shall recommend a comprehensive, age-appropriate curriculum that teaches internet safety in grades kindergarten through 12.  At a minimum, the curriculum shall address the following topics:

(1)  Interactions with persons in any cyber community;

(2)  Personal safety when interacting with persons on the internet; and

(3)  Recognition, avoidance, and reporting of cyberbullying.


(a)  It shall be unlawful to:

(1)  engage in bullying, including cyberbullying;

(2)  solicit, direct, aid, attempt to aid, or abet another student engaged in bullying.

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


(a)  A person who commits an unlawful act under this subchapter shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $500.00.

(b)  Any law enforcement officer may:

(1)  refer a person alleged to have committed an unlawful act under this subchapter to an alternative resolution process; or

(2)  issue a summons and complaint for an act of bullying, 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 bullying.

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


Nothing in this subchapter shall limit or preclude criminal prosecution or a criminal or civil action based on any act that may constitute bullying, including disorderly conduct by use of electronic means, assaults, and other crimes.

Sec. 2.  4 V.S.A. § 1102(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The judicial bureau shall have jurisdiction of the following matters:

* * *

(11)  violations of 18 V.S.A. § 4234b(b), relating to selling ephedrine base, pseudoephedrine base, or phenylpropanolamine base;

(12)  violations of subchapter 10 of chapter 1 of Title 16, relating to bullying in schools.

* * * Discrimination; Human Rights Commission * * *

Sec. 3.  9 V.S.A. § 4553 is amended to read:

§ 4553.  POWERS

(a)  To carry out its duties, the commission may:

(1)  establish Establish and maintain a principal office and such other offices within the state as it deems necessary;.

(2)  meet Meet and hold hearings at any place within the state;.

(3)  appoint Appoint employees as necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter;.

(4)  administer Administer oaths and take the testimony of any person under oath in connection with a complaint filed under section 4554 of this title;.

(5)  issue Issue subpoenas to compel testimony or access to or production of records, documents, and other evidence or possible sources of evidence, or the appearance of persons, provided that the subpoena is issued pursuant to a complaint filed in accordance with section 4554 of this title and that there is reasonable cause to believe that those materials or the testimony of the person are material to the complaint.  Subpoenas issued under this subdivision shall be accompanied with a notice that informs the person that the person has a right to contest the subpoena at a hearing before not less than three members of the commission and that the person has the additional right to contest the subpoena in court.  Subpoenas issued under this subdivision shall be enforced as provided in sections 809a and 809b of Title 3;.

(6)(A)  enforce Enforce conciliation agreements and prohibitions against discrimination by bringing an action in the name of the commission seeking any of the following:

(i)  temporary Temporary or permanent injunctive relief in the public interest and for an individual aggrieved by unlawful discrimination; or on behalf of an aggrieved individual or class of individuals similarly situated.

(ii)  the imposition Imposition of a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.00 for each violation of law including violations of any temporary restraining order issued pursuant to this section. For an intentional and continuing violation of a court order after a date set in the order, each day of violation shall be a separate offense;.

(iii)  compensatory Compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of an aggrieved individual or class of individuals similarly situated;.

(iv)  costs Costs and reasonable attorney's fees associated with the investigation and enforcement of actions; any.  Any such costs or fees recovered by the human rights commission under this chapter shall be deposited in the commission's special fund and shall be available to the commission to offset the costs of providing legal services;.

(v)  other Other appropriate relief;.

(vi)  trial Trial by jury.

(B)  The action may be brought in the superior court of the county in which the violation is alleged to have occurred, or in Washington County, and the court is authorized to render all of the above-listed relief;.

(7)  utilize Utilize voluntary and uncompensated services of private individuals and organizations for administrative and educational purposes as may from time to time be offered and needed; however, volunteers may not be used to investigate complaints;.

(8)  conduct Conduct educational activities and publicize how and where to file complaints.

(9)  Monitor educational institutions’ compliance with the procedures required by 16 V.S.A. §§ 14 and 565 regarding harassment as defined in 16 V.S.A § 11(a)(26).  In situations where an educational facility is in violation of such requirements, the commission may bring an action to enforce compliance by seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, including a civil penalty of not more than $5,000.00 per violation.

* * *

Sec. 4.  16 V.S.A. § 14(b) is amended to read:

(b)  In regard to claims brought pursuant to 9 V.S.A. chapter 139, if after notice, (1)  After receiving notice as required under subsection (a) of this section, if the educational institution finds that the alleged conduct occurred and that it constitutes harassment, the educational institution shall take prompt and appropriate remedial action reasonably calculated to stop the harassment.

(2)  No action shall be brought pursuant to 9 V.S.A. chapter 139 until the administrative remedies available to the claimant under the policy adopted by the educational institution pursuant to subsection 166(e) or 565(b) of this title or pursuant to the harassment policy of a postsecondary school have been exhausted.  Such a showing shall not be necessary where unless the claimant demonstrates that:

(1)  the (A)  The educational institution does not maintain such a policy;

(2)  a (B)  A determination has not been rendered within the time limits established under subdivision 565(b)(1) of this title;

(3)  the (C)  The health or safety of the complainant would be jeopardized otherwise;

(4)  exhaustion (D)  Exhaustion would be futile; or

(5)  requiring (E)  Requiring exhaustion would subject the student to substantial and imminent retaliation.

(3)  To prevail in an action brought pursuant to 9 V.S.A. chapter 139, a claimant under this section must prove each of the following elements:

(A)  That he or she was subjected to unwelcome conduct based on his or her membership in a category protected by law.

(B)  That the conduct was either so severe or so pervasive that, when viewed from a reasonable person’s standard, it:

(i)  Was intended to or had the effect of substantially undermining, detracting from, or interfering with the claimant’s educational performance; or

(ii)  Created an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. 

(C)  The educational institution received actual notice of the alleged conduct pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, and:

(i)  The educational institution failed to investigate the incident or incidents in a timely manner; or

(ii)  The educational institution conducted an investigation in a timely manner which substantiated that the conduct rose to the level of harassment, but the educational institution failed to take prompt, appropriate remedial action calculated to stop the harassment.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont