In June 2023, the Governor signed Public Act 23-167, which makes significant changes to Connecticut’s bullying law that become mandatory for the 2025-2026 school year. In addition to a making variety of changes to Connecticut’s bullying law, which we described in a previous article, the new legislation requires that the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (“CABE”) develop, update, and approve a “school climate policy” (the “Policy”), which in turn must be adopted by the Social and Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative (the “Collaborative”). The legislation also requires that the Collaborative create a “uniform bullying complaint form” (the “Form”).
The new Policy and Form were recently finalized and are now available on CABE’s website (see School Climate Policy and Form, #5131.911). The Policy includes redefined and newly defined terms related to the Connecticut bullying law, such as “challenging behavior” and a new definition for “bullying.” It also outlines the roles and responsibilities of various school climate personnel and new annual training requirements. A cover note to the Policy importantly reminds boards of education that the Policy “does not modify or eliminate any rights or obligations under state and federal laws, including any constitutional and civil rights protections or any other applicable policies and procedures or collective bargaining agreements.” (Emphasis in original).
The Form, entitled the “Challenging Behavior Reporting Form,” is for students, parents, guardians, and school employees to report any alleged incidents of “challenging behavior” or “bullying.” The Form must be included on a local and regional board of education’s website and in each board’s student handbooks, and, according to the language in the Form, may also “serve as a model challenging behavior reporting form that local and regional boards of education may adapt and adopt.”
In addition to the Challenging Behavior Reporting Form, the Collaborative also has provided an “Investigation Form” for use by those investigating allegations of challenging behavior and/or bullying. The purpose of the Investigation Form, as stated in that form, “is to provide a streamlined process to assess reported instances of challenging behavior.” Finally, the Collaborative has provided a “Response Process(es) Notification Form,” the purpose of which, as described in that form, “is to provide a template for transparency and accountability to a person(s) that submit(s) a report of challenging behavior.”
While school districts must adopt the Policy by the beginning of the 2025-2026 school year, the legislation does allow school districts to implement the Policy for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years if they wish. Importantly, until the Policy is adopted by the board of education, each school district must continue to comply with the current Connecticut bullying law, Connecticut General Statutes § 10-222d, and related statutory provisions, policies, and procedures. School districts may consider providing training for staff, especially administrators, about the Policy and the Form.