School harassment bill passes House

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(Host) On Thursday, the Vermont House gave preliminary approval to legislation that clarifies the definition of harassment in schools and encourages the training of school personnel to deal with incidents of harassment. The vote on the bill was 104 to 9.

House Judiciary Chairwoman Peg Flory said the changes are needed because Vermont’s current law regarding the racial, gender or religious harassment of students is too confusing. Flory told House members a story of her own harassment as a student. Flory’s father was the janitor at her school and he was given the derisive nickname of Caveman – Flory was teased as being the Caveman’s daughter.

Flory questioned whether her harassment was really any different from the harassment of students based on their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. After hearing from several key witnesses, Flory concluded that there was a basic difference:

(Flory) “It was just during the school day, just during the school term. Everyplace else I was proudly Don’s daughter. It was no longer ‘Caveman’ and I kept thinking what if I had been subjected to being Caveman’s kid every day 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That’s where the difference is with racial harassment with gender harassment with identity harassment any of those that’s where the difference is.”

(Host) The measure will come up for final approval in the House on Friday.

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