Schools are meant to be student-centered places where young people are safe and can learn what they need to succeed in life. Yet, extremist politicians and well-funded national groups are trying to make public schools and school libraries a site of attacks on LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, and families. 

Youth in Vermont public schools still have rights, and our schools have a responsibility to ensure all students, including LGBTQ+ students, are safe, supported, and able to learn. GLAD and our partners are sharing these resources on your rights as a student, parent, and educator.

Find national resources and organizations here.

Vermont Resources

Know Your Rights

Nondiscrimination: Vermont General Laws prohibit discrimination in educational programs, opportunities and other matters based on gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, and perceived sexual orientation in Vermont public schools. You can read more under 9 V.S.A. § 4501 and 9 V.S.A. § 4502.  Together, these define schools as places of public accommodation and forbid discrimination. 

Anti-Bullying: Vermont has strong anti-bullying laws. It has strict requirements that schools must follow to protect students from a wide variety of bullying, be it physical, verbal, or online.  

Guidance for Schools: The State of Vermont Agency of Education issued guidance in 2016 with best practices for schools regarding transgender and gender non-conforming students. Learn more about this guidance here.

Learn more about youth rights in Vermont on the following Know Your Rights pages:

What to do if you or your child is experiencing bullying, discrimination, or mistreatment in school

If you as a student or your child is experiencing bullying because of an LGBTQ+ status or a perceived LGBTQ+ status, you can take steps under the directive of the Vermont State Agency of Education state and federal law to remedy the situation. And you can pursue both avenues at the same time. 

Vermont Anti-Bullying & Harassment Protections 

First, it is important to understand what Vermont considers bullying or harassment. Vermont defines bullying and harassment as the following: 

Vermont anti-bullying laws and regulations include the following definitions of bullying and harassment: 

“Bullying” means any overt act or combination of acts, including an act conducted by electronic means, directed against a student by another student or group of students and that: 

  1. is repeated over time; 
  2. is intended to ridicule, humiliate, or intimidate the student; and 
    • occurs during the school day on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity, or before or after the school day on a school bus or at a school-sponsored activity; or 
    • does not occur during the school day on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity and can be shown to pose a clear and substantial interference with another student’s right to access educational programs. 

“Harassment” means an incident or incidents of verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct, including any incident conducted by electronic means, based on or motivated by a student’s or a student’s family member’s actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability that has the purpose or effect of objectively and substantially undermining and detracting from or interfering with a student’s educational performance or access to school resources or creating an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. 

Read more about Vermont law and an FAQ about it here

Second, consider whether you want to take action under the school’s anti-bullying or harassment policies, which should be available on the school website. If so, follow the steps from the school’s policies and keep copies/screenshots of emails and texts, as well as take notes of conversations with school staff, to show that you have done what you are supposed to and that the school is on notice of your concerns.

If the school is not investigating the bullying, press them to do so. Vermont school districts are expected to “address all complaints of harassment, hazing and bullying” as seen in their Model Policy on the Prevention of Harassment, Hazing and Bullying of Students 

Vermont schools (public, independent and postsecondary) deal with cases of discrimination separately from those of bullying and harassment. They are considered places of public accommodation (9 V.S.A. § 4501), and therefore they may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in their accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges (9 V.S.A. § 4502).  If they do so, this can give rise to a discrimination complaint to be filed with the Vermont Human Rights Commission.

 If you are dealing with a discrimination case, you may choose to file a discrimination complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission. Find out more.

US Harassment & Discrimination Protections for Students 

Federal law is also a tool for addressing bullying and harassment.  When these behaviors are ignored or inadequately addressed, this may add up to discrimination or the denial of education opportunities based on sexual orientation or gender identity, among other characteristics.  

You can raise concerns about your or your child’s experience of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, harassment, or other discrimination by contacting contact the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in Boston to file a complaint. The OCR has the authority to investigate a complaint of discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. Note that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are aspects of “sex” discrimination.  

Contact the Office of Civil Rights. 

Harassment and bullying because of a person’s LGBTQ+ status may also constitute sex discrimination under Title IX protections. Read more about the US Department of Education’s updated guidance on Title IX.  

If you have questions about the specific situation you are experiencing or questions that have not been answered above, please reach out to GLAD Answers

Get involved in your local community

  • Follow the issues that come up in your school committee and town/city council.
  • Attend meetings when important issues are being discussed and even to participate in the public comment period in which School Board/Committee members listen to input from the public. It is important that they hear support for good work and good arguments for why LGBTQ+ and race-based restrictions are bad educational policy for all students.
  • Follow education, curriculum, staffing, policy, library and other issues in school board and local elections, or run for office yourself.

For support in talking about issues related to education and LGBTQ+ students, and more ways to take action, visit Campaign for Our Shared Future.

Organizations and Additional Resources

Organizations

  • PFLAG Dorset is dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families.
  • Vermont Agency of Education implements state and federal laws, policies, and regulations to ensure all Vermont learners have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities.
  • Vermont Human Rights Commission protects people from unlawful discrimination in housing, state government employment, and public accommodations.

For more youth-focused organizations, visit Youth Organizations | Vermont.

Additional Resources

Vermont Agency of EducationContinuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students — Sample procedures designed to provide direction for schools to address issues that may arise concerning the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Want to learn more about LGBTQ+ Equality in Vermont? Visit the Movement Advancement Project’s Vermont Equality Profile.

GLAD Answers

Still have questions? Contact GLAD Answers for free and confidential legal information, assistance, and referrals. Complete the online intake form at GLADAnswers.org, email GLADAnswers@glad.org, or leave a voicemail at 800-455-GLAD.