Schools required to adopt bullying policies
By Cristina Kumka
For the time in Vermont's history, the Department of Education is requiring schools to develop bullying policies as stringent as the state's own model by the first day of 2013 and the department announced Wednesday a new council to look at the issue further, with possible talk about holding schools as legally accountable for bullying as they currently are for harassment.
The Harassment, Hazing and Bullying Prevention Advisory Council was formed by Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca following the passage of Act 129 last legislative session.
Act 129 replaces a prior section of state education law that never mentioned bullying and amends the state's own advisory anti-bullying policy by “beefing it up,” said Mark Oettinger, the DOE's chief legal counsel.
Bullying is aggressive behavior exhibited by students against other students and has gained national media attention in recent years because of student suicides directly tied to bullying.
“The DOE had a bullying policy for years ... the creation of this council was to look at that policy going forward and more importantly, we asked for this. Our existing policy is a good policy but we want more input from the experts,” Oettinger said.
The council is made up of 14 members — experts from the human rights field, state education leaders and lawyers — and is chaired by Tracey Tsugawa of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, a civil rights investigator on bullying and harassment issues.
A student who witnessed or was the target of bullying will also be appointed to the council this coming school year.
For the complete story, see Thursday's Rutland Herald.