Students | Transgender Rights | Vermont
What are my rights as an LGBTQ+ student?
All Vermont public school students have the right:
- To be safe in school without being bullied,
- To access information about LGBTQ+ subjects including educational websites,
- To dress and present yourself in a manner consistent with your gender identity,
- To free speech and expression. This means you have the right to express ideas that may offend other people and you have the right to disagree with others, as long as you express those ideas in a respectful way.
All Vermont public and many private school students have the right:
- To be protected from discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status,
- To form a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) that gets treated the same as every other non-curricular group. This means equal funding, access to facilities, and the ability to choose your group’s name.
Outside of school you have the right:
- To be protected from discrimination based on your actual or perceived sexual orientation, HIV status, or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations (like restaurants or stores).
- To give your own consent to get tested for HIV without your parents’ permission. For more specific information, see the “HIV/AIDS” Issue Area.
- To report to the police anyone in or out of school who physically harms you, threatens you, or vandalizes your property.
Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Resources for LGBTQI+ Students page for more information on what you can do if you experience discrimination.
Are there any state laws that protect me from harassment, hazing, and bullying at school?
Yes. It is the policy of the state of Vermont that all Vermont educational institutions provide “safe, orderly, civil and positive learning environments. Harassment, hazing and bullying have no place and will not be tolerated in Vermont schools” (16 V.S.A § 570).
Bullying is defined as an act (including an electronic one) directed against a student by another student or group of students that:
- is repeated over time;
- is intended to ridicule, humiliate or intimidate; and
- substantially interferes with a student’s right to a safe education regardless of whether it happens on or off school grounds (16 V.S.A § 11(a)(32)).
Harassment is defined as verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct (including by electronic means) motivated by a student’s or student’s family member’s actual or perceived characteristic such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or HIV status that is intended to:
- substantially interfere with educational performance or access to school resources; or
- create an intimidating or hostile environment (16 V.S.A. § 11(a)(26)(A)).
Hazing is defined as any act against a student who is involved with a student organization which is intended to humiliate, intimidate, or demean the student or endanger the physical or mental health of the student (16 V.S.A. § 11(a)(30)(A)).
What are schools required to do to prevent bullying, harassment, and hazing?
All of these policies must include:
- Annually notifying the students, staff and parents about the policies and procedures;
- A procedure that directs students, staff and parents to report violations and file complaints;
- A procedure for investigating reports of violations and complaints;
- A description of the circumstances under which the violation may be reported to a law enforcement agency;
- Consequences and appropriate remedial action for those who violate the policy;
- A description of the training that teachers and other staff will receive in preventing, recognizing and responding to violations; and
- Designation of two or more people at each school to receive complaints (16 V.S.A. §§ 570a (harassment), 570b (hazing), 570c (bullying)).
Can schools regulate anti-bullying policies outside of school grounds?
Yes, the US Supreme Court in Mahanoy Area School Dist. v. B. L. affirmed in addition to concluding that students have broad speech and expression rights outside of school, also stated:
“Circumstances that may implicate a school’s regulatory interests [outside school] include serious or severe bullying or harassment targeting particular individuals; threats aimed at teachers or other students…”
Does Vermont have specific guidance for schools to follow to protect transgender students?
Are there federal laws that protect me?
Yes, Title IX prohibits discrimination against students based on sex in any school or college that receives federal funds. In light of the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are forms of sex discrimination, the federal Department of Education, which enforces Title IX, has stated that it will interpret any sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination as sex discrimination.
To file a complaint with the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, see: How to File a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.
Complaints can be made to your school Title IX coordinator, as well as to:
Office of Civil Rights
The U.S. Department of Education
John W. McCormack Post Office & Courthouse, Room 222
Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109
Additionally, some kinds of discrimination and harassment may violate a student’s constitutional rights.
What can I do if I’m being discriminated against at school?
There are many ways to approach the issue. One is to ask for support from a friend, teacher or counselor. When harassed, if you feel safe, you may wish to speak to the perpetrators.
In addition, read your school policies and notify whoever is supposed to be notified—usually a vice principal or Title IX coordinator. You should document any incidents of harassment or discrimination in writing. Once you meet with the right officials, make a note of what you told them and on what date and ask when they will be getting back to you with a response. If they don’t help you or don’t follow through, you may wish to write to the principal and superintendent and ask for them to end the discrimination. Keep copies of all documentation for future reference.
At the same time, or after contacting the administration as set out above, you may want to contact the Safe Schools Program of the Vermont Department of Education. This program is responsible for implementing initiatives related to the equal educational opportunities and anti-harassment provisions discussed above. You can reach them at:
Alternatively, since schools are considered public accommodations in Vermont, you may want to file a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission (see discussion of Public Accommodations above) or other legal action. Contact GLAD Answers for assistance and attorney referrals.
Give Local on Give OUT DayRead More
For Give OUT Day this year, learn about organizations doing important work impacting LGBTQ+ people near you.
This is how we win: New England is leading the way for equality across the countryRead More
For the first time in our movement history, a stand-alone transgender non-discrimination bill passed and was signed in…