This article originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press online edition on the afternoon of May 23, 2012. Our thanks to the Burlington Free Press
Gov. Peter Shumlin thanked Outright Vermont today for its work advocating for stronger anti-harassment legislation in schools this year as staff members, volunteers and youth gathered at space for gay and lesbian youth.
“We have all the tools we need to deal with electronic bullying, with after-school bullying, bullying beyond school grounds, and beyond the school day,” Shumlin said this afternoon in Burlington. He said the bills passed this legislative session give schools authority to make clear that discrimination is unacceptable outside of school hours, too.
Prior to the passing of bills H412 and H771 the two bills in early May, there was a gray area surrounding harassment laws in school according to Llu Mulvaney-Stanak, director of development for Outright Vermont.
Now the lines are clearer: individuals can sue schools for not stopping harassment, and schools are required to adopt cohesive harassment, hazing, and bullying prevention policies. Also, the term harassment has been redefined: previously, acts of harassment were required to be both pervasive and severe. Now, it is defined as pervasive or severe.
“One incident of harassment can be so severe that it can have life-long implications,” Melissa Murray, executive director of Outright Vermont, said. “So its just a really important distinction because it gives our youth more protection in schools.”
Through it’s various programs, including education, weekly support groups and a summer camp, Outright Vermont helps roughly 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) youths between the ages of 13 and 22, according to Murray.
Watch the video of Governor Shumlin’s remarks here: