The passage of PA 08-160 which repeals C.G.S. 10-222d, the state’s existing bullying statute effective July 1, 2008, and adds new requirements and changes the definition of bullying seemingly has gone unnoticed. The lack of attention may be because this Act also addresses controversial changes to in school suspension laws which have garnered much attention. Notwithstanding the lack of notice, PA 08-160 makes significant changes to the existing bullying laws and places new requirements on school districts to implement and revise their bullying policies.
Pursuant to PA 08-160, the definition of “bullying” has been expanded to include “any overt acts by a student or group of students directed against another student with the intent to ridicule, harass, humiliate or intimidate the other student while on school grounds, at a school sponsored activity or on a school bus, which acts are committed more than once against any student during the school year.” This definitional change eliminates the requirement that the overt acts be committed repeatedly against the same student over time. Presumably, the previous requirement that the acts be committed against the same student over time, prevented schools under their bullying policies from disciplining a student who engaged in pervasive, generalized bullying, but did not engage in specific bullying of one individual student over time.
In addition to definitional changes, the new statute requires:
1) teachers and other staff members who witness acts of bullying to make written notification to school administrators;
2) prohibits disciplinary actions based solely on the basis of an anonymous report of bullying;
3) requires prevention strategies as well as interventions strategies;
4) requires that parents of a student who commits verified acts of bullying or against whom such bullying occurred be notified by each school and be invited to attend at least one meeting;
5) requires school to annually report the number of verified acts of bullying to the State Department of Education (DOE);
6) no later than February 1, 2009, boards must submit the bullying policies to the DOE;
7) no later than July 1, 2009, boards must include their bullying policy in their school district’s publications of rules, procedures and standards of conduct for school and in all of its student handbooks, and
8) effective July 1, 2009, boards must now provide in-service training for its teacher and administrators on prevention of bullying.
The DOE will be reviewing and analyzing the policies submitted to it by school districts and will be developing model policies for grade K-12 prevention of bullying by February 1, 2010.
School districts are encouraged to revise their existing policies to comply with immediately effective changes to the bullying statute and also are directed to begin to plan for changes to bring their policies into compliance with future requirements pursuant to PA 08-160.