Does Connecticut have a law to protect public school students from bullying?

Yes. The law improved significantly in 2011 with the passage of Public Act 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-222d). Per the law, bullying is defined as repeated written, oral, or electronic communication, or physical acts or gestures by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student, that:

  • causes the bullied student physical or emotional harm or damages their property;
  • places the bullied student in reasonable fear of being harmed;
  • creates a hostile school environment for the bullied student;
  • infringes on the bullied student’s rights or substantially disrupts the education process or the school’s orderly operation.

The law also recognizes that students who are LGBTQ+ or are perceived to be LGBTQ+ or who associate with LGBTQ+ students are often the target of bullying (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-222d(a)(1)).

Per the law, each school board must develop a “safe school climate plan” that:

  • prohibits bullying on school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, at a school bus stop or on a school bus, through electronic means (i.e. cyberbullying)
  • prohibits discrimination and retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of bullying
  • enables students to anonymously report acts of bullying
  • enables parents to file written reports of suspected bullying
  • requires school employees who witness bullying or receive reports of bullying to report it
  • requires schools to investigate all reports of bullying and have a prevention and intervention strategy
  • requires that both the parents of the bully and the parents of the victim be notified about bullying and told about the measures the school has chosen to take in response
  • requires the school to notify the police about any acts of bullying that may constitute criminal conduct
  • requires schools to maintain a publicly available list of the number of verified bullying incidents and to report this annually to the Connecticut State Department of Education
  • requires all school employees to complete annual training on identifying, preventing and responding to bullying and to youth suicide.

Can schools regulate anti-bullying policies outside of school grounds?

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court in Mahanoy Area School Dist. V. B. L. 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 Connecticut have guidance schools should follow to protect transgender students?

Yes, Connecticut has created guidance for school districts on the rights, responsibilities and best educational practices for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

The guidelines include the following:

  • Schools should respect a transgender student’s name and pronouns;
  • Schools should respect transgender students’ privacy regarding any medical information, previous names, etc.;
  • The name and gender on a student’s records should conform to the student’s gender identity;
  • Transgender students should be able to use the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that accord with their gender identity;
  • In any sex-segregated activities (including athletics), transgender students should be able to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.

For more information on this guidance, see “Guidance on Civil Rights Protections and Supports for Transgender Students”:

Guidance on Civil Rights Protections and Supports for Transgender Students 

Does the Connecticut anti-discrimination law also protect public school students?

Yes, Connecticut Gen. Stat. Sec 10-15c prohibits discrimination against public school students in activities, programs and courses of study based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, sex, religion and national origin. For more information about the Connecticut anti-discrimination law and how to file a discrimination complaint, see the “Discrimination” Issue Area.

Are there federal laws that protect students?

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 or bullied at school?

There are many ways to approach the issue. One is to ask for support from a friend, teacher, or counselor and talk to the people who are bothering you. That is not an option, however, if you don’t feel safe doing so.

Take a look at 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 with at least the date and time. Once you meet with the right officials, write yourself notes about 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.

If this fails, you may also wish to consider legal action against the town by contacting the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. 

This is a complicated area of law as well as being emotionally challenging. Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers to discuss options.