If you have any questions regarding school bullying in Connecticut, contact one of our attorneys at (203) 221-3100.

Changes to Connecticut’s Bullying Law

Connecticut Public Act 23-167 introduces several revisions to current bullying legislation. In addition to expanding the scope beyond traditional bullying to encompass all “challenging behavior,” schools will adopt a redefined definition of bullying. The longstanding Safe School Climate Plan will be replaced by a “School Climate Improvement Plan” featuring updated protocols. Furthermore, the roles and responsibilities of the School Climate Coordinator and the School Climate Specialist will be augmented under these new provisions.

Updated Definitions

The legislature has significantly revised the definition of “bullying.” Formerly described as behavior that is “severe, persistent or pervasive,” it will now be defined as “unwanted and aggressive behavior among students in grades kindergarten through twelve, inclusive, involving a real or perceived power imbalance.”

Despite this notable change, PA 23-167 shifts focus from addressing solely “bullying” to encompassing “challenging behavior.” This broader term is defined as “behavior that adversely affects school climate or disrupts, or is likely to disrupt, student learning or the safety of a student or school personnel.” The new law mandates schools to consistently identify, prevent, and address “challenging behavior,” thereby expanding the range of behaviors school districts must monitor and safeguard against, including the protection of staff members.

New Terminology

The new bullying law no longer includes the terms “hostile environment,” “outside of the school setting,” and “positive school climate.” However, the definitions of “school employee,” “emotional intelligence,” “cyberbullying,” and “teen dating violence” remain largely unchanged.

  • School Climate Improvement Plan

The School Climate Committee collaborates with the School Climate Specialist to create a customized plan for each school building. This plan utilizes school climate survey data and other pertinent information, involving all members of the school community. Its purpose is to prevent, identify, and address challenging behaviors, including alleged incidents of bullying and harassment within the school environment.

  • School Environment

This encompasses any activity, function, or program sponsored or related to the school, whether on school premises, at a school bus stop, on a school bus, or any other vehicle owned, leased, or used by the board of education. It may also extend to other activities, functions, or programs not directly sponsored or related to the school if bullying in or during these activities, functions, or programs adversely affects the school environment.

  • School Climate Survey

A research-backed, validated survey designed for students, school staff, and families in the primary languages spoken within the school community. This survey aims to assess and identify school climate needs, enabling tracking of progress through a School Climate Improvement Plan.

  • School Community

Various stakeholders, such as individuals, groups, businesses, public institutions, and nonprofit organizations, who are committed to the well-being and success of a public school system. This includes, but is not limited to, students and their families, local or regional board of education members, school volunteers, and school employees.

  • Restorative Practices

System-level practices grounded in evidence and research that emphasize: (A) fostering high-quality, positive relationships within the school community, (B) holding every student accountable for addressing challenging behavior, and (C) ensuring each student plays a role in repairing relationships and reintegrating into the school community.

What will boards of education have to implement?

  • Develop and conduct a school climate survey
  • Create and execute a plan to improve school climate
  • Incorporate specific protocols into the School Climate Improvement Plan
  • Commence effective training starting July 1, 2024
  • Implement a policy on restorative practices

Who will implement these changes?

  • A School Climate Coordinator
  • A School Climate Specialist
  • The School Climate Committee

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.