Connecticut Seal

Substitute Senate Bill No. 1138

Public Act No. 11-232

AN ACT CONCERNING THE STRENGTHENING OF SCHOOL BULLYING LAWS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 10-222d of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2011):

(a) As used in this section and sections 10-222g, as amended by this act, 10-222h, as amended by this act, and sections 4 and 9 of this act:

(1) "Bullying" means (A) the repeated use by one or more students of a written, oral or electronic communication, such as cyberbullying, directed at or referring to another student attending school in the same school district, or (B) a physical act or gesture by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student attending school in the same school district, that: (i) Causes physical or emotional harm to such student or damage to such student's property, (ii) places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property, (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for such student, (iv) infringes on the rights of such student at school, or (v) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Bullying shall include, but not be limited to, a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics;

(2) "Cyberbullying" means any act of bullying through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications;

(3) "Mobile electronic device" means any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more individuals, including, but not limited to, a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, equipment that is capable of playing a video game or a digital video disk, or equipment on which digital images are taken or transmitted;

(4) "Electronic communication" means any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical system;

(5) "Hostile environment" means a situation in which bullying among students is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the school climate;

(6) "Outside of the school setting" means at a location, activity or program that is not school related, or through the use of an electronic device or a mobile electronic device that is not owned, leased or used by a local or regional board of education;

(7) "School employee" means (A) a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, school paraprofessional or coach employed by a local or regional board of education or working in a public elementary, middle or high school; or (B) any other individual who, in the performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in a public elementary, middle or high school, pursuant to a contract with the local or regional board of education; and

(8) "School climate" means the quality and character of school life with a particular focus on the quality of the relationships within the school community between and among students and adults.

(b) Each local and regional board of education shall develop and implement a [policy] safe school climate plan to address the existence of bullying in its schools. Such [policy] plan shall: (1) Enable students to anonymously report acts of bullying to [teachers and school administrators] school employees and require students and the parents or guardians of students to be notified annually of the process by which [they] students may make such reports, (2) enable the parents or guardians of students to file written reports of suspected bullying, (3) require [teachers and other school staff] school employees who witness acts of bullying or receive [student] reports of bullying to orally notify [school administrators in writing] the safe school climate specialist, described in section 9 of this act, or another school administrator if the safe school climate specialist is unavailable, not later than one school day after such school employee witnesses or receives a report of bullying, and to file a written report not later than two school days after making such oral report, (4) require [school administrators to investigate any] the safe school climate specialist to investigate or supervise the investigation of all reports of bullying and ensure that such investigation is completed promptly after receipt of any written reports made under this section, [and] (5) require the safe school climate specialist to review any anonymous reports, except that no disciplinary action shall be taken solely on the basis of an anonymous report, [(5)] (6) include a prevention and intervention strategy, as defined by section 10-222g, as amended by this act, for school [staff] employees to deal with bullying, [(6)] (7) provide for the inclusion of language in student codes of conduct concerning bullying, [(7)] (8) require each school to notify the parents or guardians of students who commit any verified acts of bullying and the parents or guardians of students against whom such acts were directed [, and invite them to attend at least one meeting, (8) require each school] not later than forty-eight hours after the completion of the investigation described in subdivision (4) of this subsection, (9) require each school to invite the parents or guardians of a student who commits any verified act of bullying and the parents or guardians of the student against whom such act was directed to a meeting to communicate to such parents or guardians the measures being taken by the school to ensure the safety of the student against whom such act was directed and to prevent further acts of bullying, (10) establish a procedure for each school to document and maintain records relating to reports and investigations of bullying in such school and to maintain a list of the number of verified acts of bullying in such school and make such list available for public inspection, and [, within available appropriations,] annually report such number to the Department of Education, [annually] and in such manner as prescribed by the Commissioner of Education, [(9)] (11) direct the development of case-by-case interventions for addressing repeated incidents of bullying against a single individual or recurrently perpetrated bullying incidents by the same individual that may include both counseling and discipline, [and (10) identify the appropriate school personnel, which may include, but shall not be limited to, pupil services personnel, responsible for taking a bullying report and investigating the complaint] (12) prohibit discrimination and retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of bullying, (13) direct the development of student safety support plans for students against whom an act of bullying was directed that address safety measures the school will take to protect such students against further acts of bullying, (14) require the principal of a school, or the principal's designee, to notify the appropriate local law enforcement agency when such principal, or the principal's designee, believes that any acts of bullying constitute criminal conduct, (15) prohibit bullying (A) on school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program whether on or off school grounds, at a school bus stop, on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by a local or regional board of education, or through the use of an electronic device or an electronic mobile device owned, leased or used by the local or regional board of education, and (B) outside of the school setting if such bullying (i) creates a hostile environment at school for the student against whom such bullying was directed, (ii) infringes on the rights of the student against whom such bullying was directed at school, or (iii) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school, (16) require, at the beginning of each school year, each school to provide all school employees with a written or electronic copy of the school district's safe school climate plan, and (17) require that all school employees annually complete the training described in section 10-220a, as amended by this act, or section 6 of this act. The notification required pursuant to subdivision [(7)] (8) of this subsection and the invitation required pursuant to subdivision (9) of this [section] subsection shall include a description of the response of school [staff] employees to such acts and any consequences that may result from the commission of further acts of bullying. [For purposes of this section, "bullying" means any overt acts by a student or a 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. Such policies may include provisions addressing bullying outside of the school setting if it has a direct and negative impact on a student's academic performance or safety in school. ]

(c) Not later than [February 1, 2009] January 1, 2012, each local and regional board of education shall [submit the policy] approve the safe school climate plan developed pursuant to this section and submit such plan to the Department of Education. Not later than [July 1, 2009, each] thirty calendar days after approval of such plan by the local or regional board of education, the board shall make such plan available on the board's and each individual school in the school district's Internet web site and ensure that [the policy] such plan is included in the school district's publication of the rules, procedures and standards of conduct for schools and in all student handbooks.

(d) On and after July 1, 2012, and biennially thereafter, each local and regional board of education shall require each school in the district to complete an assessment using the school climate assessment instruments, including surveys, approved and disseminated by the Department of Education pursuant to section 10-222h, as amended by this act. Each local and regional board of education shall collect the school climate assessments for each school in the district and submit such school climate assessments to the department.

Sec. 2. Section 10-222g of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2011):

For the purposes of section 10-222d, as amended by this act, the term "prevention and intervention strategy" may include, but is not limited to, (1) implementation of a positive behavioral interventions and supports process or another evidence-based model approach for safe school climate or for the prevention of bullying identified by the Department of Education, (2) [a school survey to determine the prevalence of bullying, (3) establishment of a bullying prevention coordinating committee with broad representation to review the survey results and implement the strategy, (4)] school rules prohibiting bullying, harassment and intimidation and establishing appropriate consequences for those who engage in such acts, [(5)] (3) adequate adult supervision of outdoor areas, hallways, the lunchroom and other specific areas where bullying is likely to occur, [(6)] (4) inclusion of grade-appropriate bullying education and prevention curricula in kindergarten through high school, [(7)] (5) individual interventions with the bully, parents and school [staff] employees, and interventions with the bullied child, parents and school [staff] employees, [(8)] (6) school-wide training related to safe school climate, (7) student peer training, education and support, and [(9)] (8) promotion of parent involvement in bullying prevention through individual or team participation in meetings, trainings and individual interventions.

Sec. 3. Section 10-222h of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2011):

(a) The Department of Education shall, within available appropriations, (1) [review and analyze the policies submitted to the department pursuant to section 10-222d, (2) examine the relationship between bullying, school climate and student outcomes, (3)] document school districts' articulated needs for technical assistance and training related to safe learning and bullying, [(4)] (2) collect information on the prevention and intervention strategies used by schools to reduce the incidence of bullying, improve school climate and improve reporting outcomes, [and (5)] (3) develop or recommend a model [policies] safe school climate plan for grades kindergarten to twelve, inclusive, [for the prevention of bullying] and (4) in collaboration with the Connecticut Association of Schools, disseminate to all public schools grade-level appropriate school climate assessment instruments approved by the department, including surveys, to be used by local and regional boards of education for the purposes of collecting information described in subdivision (2) of this subsection so that the department can monitor bullying prevention efforts over time and compare each district's progress to state trends. On or before February 1, 2010, and biennially thereafter, the department shall, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, submit a report on the status of its efforts pursuant to this section including, but not limited to, the number of verified acts of bullying in the state, an analysis of the responsive action taken by school districts and any recommendations it may have regarding additional activities or funding to prevent bullying in schools and improve school climate to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education and to the select committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children.

(b) The department may accept private donations for the purposes of this section.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2011) (a) The Department of Education, in consultation with the State Education Resource Center, the Governor's Prevention Partnership and the Commission on Children, shall establish, within available appropriations, a state-wide safe school climate resource network for the identification, prevention and education of school bullying in the state. Such state-wide safe school climate resource network shall make available to all schools information, training opportunities and resource materials to improve the school climate to diminish bullying.

(b) The department may seek federal, state and municipal funding and may accept private donations for the administration of the state-wide safe school climate resource network.

Sec. 5. Subsection (a) of section 10-220a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2011):

(a) Each local or regional board of education shall provide an in-service training program for its teachers, administrators and pupil personnel who hold the initial educator, provisional educator or professional educator certificate. Such program shall provide such teachers, administrators and pupil personnel with information on (1) the nature and the relationship of drugs, as defined in subdivision (17) of section 21a-240, and alcohol to health and personality development, and procedures for discouraging their abuse, (2) health and mental health risk reduction education which includes, but need not be limited to, the prevention of risk-taking behavior by children and the relationship of such behavior to substance abuse, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-infection and AIDS, as defined in section 19a-581, violence, teen dating violence, domestic violence, child abuse and youth suicide, (3) the growth and development of exceptional children, including handicapped and gifted and talented children and children who may require special education, including, but not limited to, children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities, and methods for identifying, planning for and working effectively with special needs children in a regular classroom, (4) school violence prevention, conflict resolution, the prevention of and response to youth suicide and the identification and prevention of and response to bullying, as defined in subsection (a) of section 10-222d, as amended by this act, except that those boards of education that implement [an] any evidence-based model approach [,] that is approved by the Department of Education and is consistent with subsection (d) of section 10-145a, as amended by this act, subsection (a) of section 10-220a, as amended by this act, sections 10-222d, as amended by this act, 10-222g, as amended by this act, and 10-222h, as amended by this act, subsection (g) of section 10-233c and sections 1 and 3 of public act 08-160, shall not be required to provide in-service training on the identification and prevention of and response to bullying, (5) cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other emergency life saving procedures, (6) computer and other information technology as applied to student learning and classroom instruction, communications and data management, (7) the teaching of the language arts, reading and reading readiness for teachers in grades kindergarten to three, inclusive, and (8) second language acquisition in districts required to provide a program of bilingual education pursuant to section 10-17f. Each local and regional board of education may allow any paraprofessional or noncertified employee to participate, on a voluntary basis, in any in-service training program provided pursuant to this section. The State Board of Education, within available appropriations and utilizing available materials, shall assist and encourage local and regional boards of education to include: (A) Holocaust education and awareness; (B) the historical events surrounding the Great Famine in Ireland; (C) African-American history; (D) Puerto Rican history; (E) Native American history; (F) personal financial management; (G) domestic violence and teen dating violence; and (H) topics approved by the state board upon the request of local or regional boards of education as part of in-service training programs pursuant to this subsection.

Sec. 6. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2011) The Department of Education shall provide, within available appropriations, annual training to school employees, as defined in section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, except those school employees who hold the initial educator, provisional educator or professional educator certificate, on the prevention, identification and response to school bullying, as defined in section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, and the prevention of and response to youth suicide. Such training may include, but not be limited to, (1) developmentally appropriate strategies to prevent bullying among students in school and outside of the school setting, (2) developmentally appropriate strategies for immediate and effective interventions to stop bullying, (3) information regarding the interaction and relationship between students committing acts of bullying, students against whom such acts of bullying are directed and witnesses of such acts of bullying, (4) research findings on bullying, such as information about the types of students who have been shown to be at-risk for bullying in the school setting, (5) information on the incidence and nature of cyberbullying, as defined in section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, (6) Internet safety issues as they relate to cyberbullying, or (7) information on the incidence of youth suicide, methods of identifying youths at risk of suicide and developmentally appropriate strategies for effective interventions to prevent youth suicide. Such training may be presented in person by mentors, offered in state-wide workshops or through on-line courses.

Sec. 7. Subdivision (1) of subsection (e) of section 10-145o of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2011):

(e) (1) Beginning teachers shall satisfactorily complete instructional modules in the following areas: (A) Classroom management and climate, which shall include training regarding the prevention, identification and response to school bullying, as defined in section 10-222d, as amended by this act, and the prevention of and response to youth suicide; (B) lesson planning and unit design; (C) delivering instruction; (D) assessing student learning; and (E) professional practice. Beginning teachers shall complete two modules in their first year in the program and three modules in their second year in the program, except as otherwise provided by the Commissioner of Education, or as provided for in subsection (h) of this section.

Sec. 8. Subsection (d) of section 10-145a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2011):

(d) Any candidate in a program of teacher preparation leading to professional certification shall [be encouraged to] complete a school violence, bullying, as defined in section 10-222d, as amended by this act, and suicide prevention and conflict resolution component of such a program.

Sec. 9. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2011) (a) For the school year commencing July 1, 2012, and each school year thereafter, the superintendent of each local or regional board of education shall appoint, from among existing school district staff, a district safe school climate coordinator. The district safe school climate coordinator shall: (1) Be responsible for implementing the district's safe school climate plan, developed pursuant to section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, (2) collaborate with the safe school climate specialists, described in subsection (b) of this section, the board of education for the district and the superintendent of schools of the school district to prevent, identify and respond to bullying in the schools of the district, (3) provide data and information, in collaboration with the superintendent of schools of the district, to the Department of Education regarding bullying, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (b) of section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, and subsection (a) of section 10-222h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, and (4) meet with the safe school climate specialists at least twice during the school year to discuss issues relating to bullying in the school district and to make recommendations concerning amendments to the district's safe school climate plan.

(b) For the school year commencing July 1, 2012, and each school year thereafter, the principal of each school, or the principal's designee, shall serve as the safe school climate specialist and shall (1) investigate or supervise the investigation of reported acts of bullying in the school in accordance with the district's safe school climate plan, (2) collect and maintain records of reports and investigations of bullying in the school, and (3) act as the primary school official responsible for preventing, identifying and responding to reports of bullying in the school.

(c) (1) For the school year commencing July 1, 2012, and each school year thereafter, the principal of each school shall establish a committee or designate at least one existing committee in the school to be responsible for developing and fostering a safe school climate and addressing issues relating to bullying in the school. Such committee shall include at least one parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the school appointed by the school principal.

(2) Any such committee shall: (A) receive copies of completed reports following investigations of bullying, (B) identify and address patterns of bullying among students in the school, (C) review and amend school policies relating to bullying, (D) review and make recommendations to the district safe school climate coordinator regarding the district's safe school climate plan based on issues and experiences specific to the school, (E) educate students, school employees and parents and guardians of students on issues relating to bullying, (F) collaborate with the district safe school climate coordinator in the collection of data regarding bullying, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (b) of section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, and subsection (a) of section 10-222h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, and (G) perform any other duties as determined by the school principal that are related to the prevention, identification and response to school bullying for the school.

(3) Any parent or guardian serving as a member of any such committee shall not participate in the activities described in subparagraphs (A) and (B) of subdivision (2) of this subsection or any other activity that may compromise the confidentiality of a student.

Sec. 10. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2011) (a) No claim for damages shall be made against a school employee, as defined in section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, who reports, investigates and responds to bullying, as defined in said section 10-222d, in accordance with the provisions of the safe school climate plan, described in said section 10-222d, if such school employee was acting in good faith in the discharge of his or her duties or within the scope of his or her employment. The immunity provided in this subsection does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, reckless, wilful or wanton misconduct.

(b) No claim for damages shall be made against a student, parent or guardian of a student or any other individual who reports an act of bullying to a school employee, in accordance with the provisions of the safe school climate plan described in said section 10-222d, if such individual was acting in good faith. The immunity provided in this subsection does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, reckless, wilful or wanton misconduct.

(c) No claim for damages shall be made against a local or regional board of education that implements the safe school climate plan, described in section 10-222d of the general statutes, as amended by this act, and reports, investigates and responds to bullying, as defined in said section 10-222d, if such local or regional board of education was acting in good faith in the discharge of its duties. The immunity provided in this subsection does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, reckless, wilful or wanton misconduct.

Approved July 13, 2011