SCHOOL LAW ADVISORY
Volume 29, No. 2
The definition of bullying under Maine law includes both negative behavior based on protected status (“harassment”) and other forms of unkind behavior between students. Harassment may be unlawful under federal and state law, and an investigation of harassment is usually covered by board policy ACAA (Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students), whereas an investigation of other forms of bullying is generally governed by board policy JICK (Bullying). At the outset of any bullying investigation, it is therefore necessary to identify whether the bullying alleged involves protected status or not. Thus, the “Responding Form” (JICK –E2) referred to in the Department of Education’s model bullying policy and in use in many districts around the state specifically requires identification of whether the behavior alleged was related to the targeted student’s actual or perceived membership in a protected class.
After several years of dealing with Maine’s bullying law, most school administrators regularly and accurately make determinations of whether the student behavior alleged in any given circumstance involves possible unlawful harassment based on protected status. And when that determination is made, administrators involve the district’s affirmative action officer in the process of investigating and addressing the allegations, and make accurate reports to the state. There is, however, one form of sexual discrimination/ harassment, known as sexual stereotyping, that is often not recognized as illegal discrimination and is therefore sometimes mis-categorized. ...To continue reading, visit https://schoollaw.com/school-law-advisory.