School Climate and Bullying

School climate, which is defined as the quality and character of school life, is an essential element in the success of a school. One of the National School Climate Standards developed by the Center for Social and Emotional Education is:

"the school community creates an environment where all members are welcomed, supported, and feel safe in school: socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically."

Taking effective steps to prevent bullying improves school climate and pays tremendous dividends in other ways. Positive school climate fosters children's development, learning and achievement.

At a March 2011 White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, President Obama said "Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it's not something we have to accept. As parents and students; teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe."

As a parent of a child with a disability, it is important to know how bullying is addressed in schools as children with disabilities are three to five times more at risk for being targets of bullies. Federal and state laws, as well as local school policies exist to create safe school climates for all students. Each school district is required, by law, to have anti-bullying policies and practices in place as well as designated individuals to handle complaints.

In July 2011, Governor Malloy signed into law Public Act 11-232, legislation that takes comprehensive steps to ensure every child's right to learn in Connecticut public schools without fear of teasing, humiliation, or assault.

This law clarified the definition of bullying as: (A) the repeated use by one or more students of a written, oral or electronic communication, such as cyberbullying, directed at or referring to another student attending school in the same school district, or (B) a physical act or gesture by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student attending school in the same school district, that: (i) Causes physical or emotional harm to such student or damage to such student's property, (ii) places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property, (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for such student, (iv) infringes on the rights of such student at school, or (v) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Bullying shall include, but not be limited to, a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics.

The law also specified a timeline for action when bullying is witnessed by or reported to any school employee:

  • Within 1 school day - School employee makes oral report to school climate specialist
  • Within 2 school days - School employee makes written report to school climate specialist
  • Promptly after receiving report - School climate specialist must conduct an investigation, however, there are no mandated guidelines for how long the investigation process will take.
  • If bullying is verified, within 48 hours of the completion of the investigation, parents must be notified of the results and invited to attend a meeting to discuss the measures being taken by the school to ensure the safety of the student who was bullied.

Contact Information

For Complaints regarding Bullying, please contact:

Jo Ann Freiberg, Ph.D.
Education Consultant
School Climate, Bullying and Character Education
Turnaround Office
Connecticut State Department of Education
450 Columbus Boulevard, Suite 602
Hartford, CT 06103-1841

E-mail: joann.freiberg@ct.gov
Phone: (860) 713-6805

For Complaints regarding Bullying, based on protected classes (such as race, sex, religion and sexual orientation) and other acts of bias and discrimination, please contact:

Dr. Adrian R. Wood
State Title IX Coordinator
CT State Department of Education
Turnaround Office
450 Columbus Boulevard, Suite 602
Hartford, CT 06103-1841

Telephone: (860) 713-6795
E-mail: adrian.wood@ct.gov
Also see: Title IX Website

Formal complaints based on protected classes should be directed to:

The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO)
450 Columbus Boulevard, Suite 2
Hartford, Connecticut 06103

Telephone: (860) 541-3400
Toll Free (CT): (800) 477-5737
Website
Online Complaint Form

Boston Office
Office for Civil Rights
US Department of Education
8th Floor
5 Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109-3921

Telephone: (617) 289-0111
TDD: (877) 521-2172
FAX: (617) 289-0150
Email: OCR.Boston@ed.gov
Filing complaints electronically

For information on Positive School Climate:

Creating a Positive School Climate (English and Spanish) created by the 2012 Community Conversation on School Climate sponsored by the Stamford Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) Alumni Association, Stamford Public Schools and the Parent Teacher Council

For information on how to file a formal bullying complaint with your child's school:

"Bullying and Harassment in Connecticut: A Guide for Parents and Guardians" December 2012, CT Department of Education Spanish Version
Record-Keeping and Bullying developed by PACER Spanish version

For more information on Connecticut's anti-bullying laws:

CT Commission on Children: Bullying
CT State Department of Education: Bullying and Harassment
Anti Bullying Bill Becomes a Law by the CT Commission on Children
Connecticut passed a new School Climate bill in the 2019 Session, read the Law.
Connecticut General Assembly School Climate Talk Force

For information on federal law on student bullying and harassment:

In its "Dear Colleague Letter: Harassment and Bullying" the U.S. Department of Education explains how federal antidiscrimination laws protect students in schools.

For information on how to support your child if he/she is bullied:

Bullies and Victims: Information for Parents from the National Association for School Psychologists
Cyberbullying: What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Children from PACER
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Bullying from PACER Spanish version
Talk with Your Child About Bullying developed by PACER Spanish version
Use Positive Strategies to Protect Your Child with Disabilities from Bullying developed by PACER

Other Resources on Bullying

CT State Department of Education: Bullying and School Climate
PACER National Bullying Prevention Center
PACER Kids Against Bullying
Walk a Mile In Their Shoes: Bullying and the Child with Special Needs - A Report and Guide from AbilityPath.org
Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities: Top 10 Facts for Parents, Educators and Students
Governor's Prevention Partnership PowerPoint "Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities: An Overview of Legal Obligations and Strategies to Curtail Mean Behavior through the IEP"