School Harassment

Bullying and harassment are an unfortunate reality in our schools today. These behaviors present challenges for everyone: school faculty and staff, students, parents/guardians, and the communities we live in. Sometimes behaviors start off-campus (such as cyberbullying) and spill on to school campuses. Sometimes behaviors start off as "joking around" and then become mean and hurtful. Sometimes behaviors start between students who were best friends last week and have become mortal enemies this week. Regardless of where the behavior started or who started the conflict, it is behavior that none of us wish to have as a "norm" in our schools. Thus, addressing incidents of bullying and harassment proactively and/or reactively, immediately and effectively, is crucial in transforming these kinds of behaviors into more positive behaviors in our schools.

Education is key: 

  • Teaching students about the differences between bullying and harassment, teasing and taunting, flirting and hurting, or debating and denigrating.
  • Empowering students to stand up to bullying and harassment, either as a target or as a bystander.
  • Providing school faculty and staff with information and skills with which to address bullying and harassment, whether intervening during a "teachable moment," or investigating a complaint of bullying or harassment.
  • Engaging parents/guardians in dialogue and providing information about bullying and harassment as well as about school policies and procedures related to bullying and harassment.

All of these strategies, in conjunction with other strategies to create safe schools, are the most effective ways to create positive changes in our schools.  Included on this website is information for students, parents/guardians, and school faculty and staff.  If you have questions about the materials provided here or situations you are addressing in your schools, please contact Tracey Tsugawa at 800-416-2010, ext. 2493, or tracey.tsugawa@state.vt.us.

Information and Training

In conjunction with the Vermont Department of Education, the Commission strives to reduce and eliminate harassment in schools by providing information and training opportunities for school staff and administrators. To that end, the HRC provides workshops on bullying and harassment to entire school districts and supervisory unions but cannot offer training to individual schools. Over the past ten years, the HRC has conducted workshops for administrative and other school staff for the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, the Rutland Central Supervisory Union, the Vermont Principals' Association, Southwest Vermont  Supervisory Union, Caledonia North Supervisory Union, Grand Isle Supervisory Union, Chittenden South Supervisory Union, Winooski School District, Springfield School District, and Burlington School District.  Workshops are also sometimes provided at various education conferences throughout the year such as the Small School Conference, the Vermont Principals' Association Leadership Academy, the Vermont Superintedents' Association and Vermont School Boards Association conference, and the Vermont Association for Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.  In addition, the HRC, conducts statewide workshops twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, for school staff about information and techniques for investigating complaints of bullying, harassment, and cyberbullying/cyberharassment. If you are interested in hosting a workshop in your school district/supervisory union, education association, or would like information about upcoming workshops, please contact Tracey Tsugawa at 800-416-2010, ext. 2493 or tracey.tsugawa@state.vt.us.

Bi-annual 3-day training on investigating complaints of bullying and harassment: The Fall 2014 training will take place at the Killington Grand Resort on October 21, 22, and 29, 2014. PLEASE SIGN UP EARLY AS THIS TRAINING FILLS UP QUICKLY.   Details and registration information for the Fall 2014 training. The Spring 2015 training will take place at the Lake Morey Resort, dates TBD.

School Bullying and Harassment Laws

  • Act 91 (2004 harassment statute)
  • Act 117 (2004 bullying statute)
  • Act 129 (2012 amendments to bullying statute)
  • Act 140 (2012 amendments to harassment statute)
  • 16 VSA 11
  • 16 VSA 14
  • 16 VSA 570, 570a, and 570c

 Cyberbullying

  • The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use and other Internet resources
  • Curriculum resources
  • 2009 Legislative Study Committee Report on Harassment, Bullying, and Cyberbullying

 Materials Used in HRC Workshops

  • Bullying statistics
  • Analyzing information gathered during an investigation
  • Bullying and harassment scenarios
  • Continuum of behaviors
  • Creating an investigative plan
  • Complaint intake content
  • Cyberbullying legal issues
  • Cyberbullying scenarios
  • Factors to consider when engaging in informal resolution
  • Gender identity/sex/sexual orientation definitions
  • Race/color/national origin definitions
  • Information to include in notification letters to parents/guardians
  • Interviewing tips and techniques
  • Legal definitions of bullying, harassment, and hazing
  • Quick guide: investigation flow chart
  • School staff roles and responsibilities matrix
  • Recommendations from Dan Olweus and Barbara Coloroso
  • Resource sheet
  • Teasing v. taunting
  • Proactive strategies

 Independent Review

  • Template for independent reviews
  • VT Department of Education memo
  • Independent reviewer list

 US Department of Education Documents

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) FAQ
  • FERPA guide
  • Hate crimes and harassment investigation guide
  • Sexual harassment guides

 Vermont Agency of Education Documents

  • Discipline plan development guide
  • Harassment investigation flow chart
  • Information to include in student handbooks
  • Model bullying plan
  • Model harassment policy
  • Model hazing policy
  • Positive school discipline guide

 Reasonable Grounds School Harassment Cases

  • "Green" v. Washington Central Supervisory Union/U-32 High School
  • "Silver" v. Grand Isle Supervisory Union/Grand Isle School
  • "Smith" v. Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union/Craftsbury Town School
  • "Papaya" v. Springfield School Distirct/Springfield High School
  • "Peach" v. Washington South Supervisory Union/Northfield Elementary School

Additional Materials

  • US Commission on Civil Rights, Vermont State Advisory Committee 1999 report on racial harassment in Vermont schools
  • US Commission on Civil Rights, Vermont State Advisory Committee 2003 addendum report on racial harassment in Vermont schools

Enforcement

Under the Fair Housing and Public Accommodation Act, the Commission has jurisdiction over complaints of harassment directed at students in public and private schools in Vermont (K-12, colleges and universities).  As a neutral agency, our office will investigate complaints of harassment (we do not represent either side in an investigation).  However, the Commission will not accept a complaint of harassment unless the complainant has already filed a complaint directly with the school and given the school an opportunity to respond to the complaint.  If you wish to file a complaint of harassment, please contact us at 800-416-2010,  ext. 25, or human.rights@state.vt.us.

NOTE:  If you wish to file a complaint of harassment directed at an adult in a school, you must call the Attorney General's Office, Civil Rights Unit (this kind of complaint is considered a part of private employment discrimination) at 888-745-9195 or go to their website at www.atg.state.vt.us and click on "Discrimination" in the lefthand column.