PA 08-160—sHB 5826

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

SUMMARY: This act extends the implementation date of PA 07-66, which (1) generally prohibits out-of-school suspensions and (2) extends, from five to 10 days, the maximum length of in-school suspensions. The act provides that in-school suspensions may be served in any school building under the jurisdiction of a board of education, as the board determines. It also requires the education commissioner, by October 1, 2008, to issue guidelines to help boards determine whether a pupil should receive an in- or out-of-school suspension.

The act also specifically expands the definition of bullying and requires school boards to implement the bullying policies the law required them to adopt. Finally, it requires (1) people in a teacher preparation program to be encouraged to complete a school bullying and suicide prevention component and (2) teachers to receive in-service training in bullying prevention. Boards of education that implement an evidence-based approach to bullying prevention do not have to provide the training.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2008, except for the provisions on the suspension definition and guidelines, which are effective upon passage, and the in-service training, teacher preparation training, and SDE policy review, which are effective July 1, 2009.

SUSPENSIONS

The act extends, from July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2009, the implementation date of PA 07-66's limitation on out-of-school suspensions and its definition of “in-school suspension. ” PA 07-66 requires suspensions to be in-school unless the school administration determines, at the required informal suspension hearing, that the student (1) poses such a danger to people or property or (2) is so disruptive of the educational process that the suspension must be served outside of school. Prior law defined in-school suspension as exclusion from classroom activity, but not from school, for up to five consecutive days. PA 07-66 extended this to a maximum of 10 consecutive school days.

BULLYING

Definition

Prior law defined bullying as overt acts by one or more students intended to ridicule, humiliate, or intimidate that are repeated over time against another student on school grounds, at a school-sponsored activity, or on a school bus. The act eliminates the requirement that the acts be repeated against the same student over time and instead requires only that the acts be committed more than once against any student during the school year.

Policies

By law, bullying policies must require school staff who witness or receive reports of bullying to notify school administrators. The act specifies that the notifications must be made in writing. It also requires administrators to investigate all written reports, rather than just those made by parents or guardians.

The law requires school personnel to investigate anonymous reports; the act provides that no disciplinary action can be taken based solely on anonymous reports. The act requires that the policies identify the appropriate school personnel, which can include pupil services personnel, responsible for taking bullying reports and investigating complaints. It specifies each school must invite each parent or guardian that they notify of bullying to one meeting.

The law requires each school to keep a list of the number of verified acts of bullying and make them available for public inspection. The act requires each school, within available appropriations, annually to report that number to the State Department of Education (SDE) in the manner prescribed by the education commissioner.

The act also requires that the policies include a prevention and intervention strategy, rather than just intervention, for school staff to deal with bullying. Under the act, the term “prevention and intervention strategy” may include, among other things:

1. implementation of a positive behavioral interventions and supports process or another evidence-based model for safe school climate or for bullying prevention identified by SDE;

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. adequate adult supervision of outdoor areas, hallways, lunchrooms, and other specific areas where bullying is likely to occur;

6. inclusion of grade-appropriate bullying prevention curricula in kindergarten through high school;

7. individual interventions with the bully, the bullied child, parents, and school staff;

8. school-wide training related to safe school climate; and

9. promotion of parent involvement in bullying prevention through individual or team participation in meetings, training, and individual interventions.

The act requires each school board to submit its bullying policy to SDE by February 1, 2009. Each board must ensure that the policy is included in the school district's publication of the rules, procedures, and standards of conduct for schools and in all student handbooks by July 1, 2009.

SDE Review of Policies

The act requires SDE, within available appropriations, to

1. review and analyze the bullying policies it receives;

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. collect information on the prevention and intervention strategies schools use to reduce the incidence of bullying, improve school climate, and improve reporting outcomes; and

5. develop model policies for grades kindergarten to 12, inclusive, to prevent bullying.

By February 1, 2010, SDE must report on the status of its efforts and any recommendations it may have regarding additional activities or funding to prevent bullying in schools and improve school climate to the Education and Children's committees. SDE can accept private donations to achieve these tasks.

BACKGROUND

Suspensions

The law allows a student to be suspended for conduct that (1) violates a publicized board policy or seriously disrupts the educational process or (2) endangers people or property on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity. It defines suspension as exclusion from school privileges, or from transportation services only, for up to 10 consecutive school days.

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