(Host) The Senate has given its preliminary approval to legislation that backers hope will help schools deal promptly with incidents of student harassment. The vote on the bill was unanimous.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The legislation, which passed the House earlier this year, has several key provisions. It clarifies the definition of harassment to include “written, verbal, visual or physical conduct based on a student’s race, creed, color, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or disability.” The bill calls on schools to immediately set up an investigation after a complaint has been filed by a student and the investigation must be completed within 30 days.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Jim Condos says there’s no doubt that the legislation is needed:
(Condos) “We are becoming a more diverse state and harassment is an issue. There are some that say that there is no harassment in this state. I beg to differ. I think there is and whether we have one case or 100 cases, it doesn’t matter. We need not condone any harassment in this state.”
(Kinzel) Condos says the most important provision in the bill is a requirement that calls on schools to act promptly when an allegation of harassment has been filed:
(Condos) “The real gut of this bill is to provide the framework for a prompt and deliberate investigation of an alleged incident, to make sure that the kids that are involved – be it the ones that are perpetrating, stop it or the ones that are being victims – are protected.”
(Kinzel) The legislation also includes an educational component to help teachers and other school personnel recognize cases of harassment.
The Senate is scheduled to give its final approval to the legislation on Wednesday afternoon. Because the bill is exactly the same as the proposal that passed the House, once it receives final approval in the Senate, it will go directly to the governor for his signature.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.