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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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S.131

Introduced by Senator Condos of Chittenden District

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Education; harassment; human rights commission  

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to authorize the human rights commission to monitor procedures that educational institutions are required to take in connection with allegations of harassment.  It also proposes to clarify the legal standard required to prove harassment in an educational institution under the public accommodations statute.  Finally, it establishes bullying of students by students as a civil violation.

AN ACT RELATING TO HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OCCURRING IN AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION

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

Sec. 1.  9 V.S.A. § 4553(a) is amended to read:

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

* * *

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

(i)  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;

* * *

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

(9)  monitor compliance by educational institutions with the procedures required in 16 V.S.A. §§ 14 and 565 regarding harassment as defined in
16 V.S.A § 11(a)(26).  In situations in which 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. 2.  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.

Sec. 3.  16 V.S.A. chapter 1, subchapter 10 is added to read:

Subchapter 10.  Bullying

§ 140e.  DEFINITIONS

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 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.


§ 140f.  INTERNET SAFETY PLAN

Each educational institution shall provide 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 on-line bullying.

§ 140g.  UNLAWFUL CONDUCT

(a)  It shall be unlawful to:

(1)  engage in bullying;

(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.

§ 140h.  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 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.

§ 140i.  CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND CIVIL ACTION

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. 4.  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.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us