Title 16: Education
Chapter 9: SCHOOL DISTRICTS
Sub-Chapter 5: Harassment, Hazing, And Bullying
16 V.S.A. § 570a. Harassment
§ 570a. Harassment
(a) Policies and plan. The harassment prevention policy required by section 570 of this title and its plan for implementation shall include:
(1) A statement that harassment, as defined in subdivision 11(a)(26) of this title, is prohibited and may constitute a violation of the public accommodations act as more fully described in section 14 of this title.
(2) Consequences and appropriate remedial action for staff or students who commit harassment. At all stages of the investigation and determination process, school officials are encouraged to make available to complainants alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, for resolving complaints.
(3) A procedure that directs students, staff, parents, and guardians how to report violations and file complaints.
(4) A description of the circumstances under which harassment may be reported to a law enforcement agency.
(5) A procedure for investigating reports of violations and complaints. The procedure shall provide that, unless special circumstances are present and documented by the school officials, an investigation is initiated no later than one school day from the filing of a complaint and the investigation and determination by school officials are concluded no later than five school days from the filing of the complaint with a person designated to receive complaints under subdivision (7) of this subsection. All internal reviews of the school's initial determination, including the issuance of a final decision, shall, unless special circumstances are present and documented by the school officials, be completed within 30 days after the review is requested.
(6) A description of how the school board will ensure that teachers and other staff members receive training in preventing, recognizing, and responding to harassment.
(7) Annual designation of two or more people at each school campus to receive complaints and a procedure for publicizing those people's availability.
(8) 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.
(9) A statement that acts of retaliation for the reporting of harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of harassment are unlawful pursuant to 9 V.S.A. § 4503.
(b) Independent review.
(1) A student who desires independent review under this subsection because the student is either dissatisfied with the final determination of the school officials as to whether harassment occurred or believes that, although a final determination was made that harassment occurred, the school's response was inadequate to correct the problem shall make such request in writing to the headmaster or superintendent of schools. Upon such request, the headmaster or superintendent shall initiate an independent review by a neutral person selected from a list developed jointly by the commissioner of education and the human rights commission and maintained by the commissioner. Individuals shall be placed on the list on the basis of their objectivity, knowledge of harassment issues, and relevant experience.
(2) The independent review shall proceed expeditiously and shall consist of an interview of the student and the relevant school officials and review of written materials involving the complaint maintained by the school or others.
(3) Upon the conclusion of the review, the reviewer shall advise the student and the school officials as to the sufficiency of the school's investigation, its determination, the steps taken by the school to correct any harassment found to have occurred, and any future steps the school should take. The reviewer shall advise the student of other remedies that may be available if the student remains dissatisfied and, if appropriate, may recommend mediation or other alternative dispute resolution.
(4) The independent reviewer shall be considered an agent of the school for the purpose of being able to review confidential student records.
(5) The costs of the independent review shall be borne by the public school district or independent school.
(6) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit the school board from requesting an independent review at any stage of the process.
(7) Evidence of conduct or statements made in connection with an independent review shall not be admissible in any court proceeding. This subdivision shall not require exclusion of any evidence otherwise obtainable from independent sources merely because it is presented in the course of an independent review.
(8) The commissioner may adopt rules implementing this subsection. (Added 2011, No. 129 (Adj. Sess.), § 12, eff. May 11, 2012; amended 2013, No. 34, § 10.)