The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the Twin Valley School District in Vermont to resolve its investigation into complaints of student-on-student harassment based on race and sex.
The department’s investigation revealed that the district knew of, and did not respond sufficiently to, individualized harassment and a broader hostile educational environment in Twin Valley Middle-High School. The department’s review, which focused on the district’s responses to allegations of harassment from the 2019-20 school year to the present identified instances of targeted peer harassment and pervasive documented use of derogatory epithets and comments based on students’ race, sex, sexual orientation and sex stereotypes. Because the district did not sufficiently address these instances, students were deprived of equal access to the educational opportunities the district provided.
“Pervasive racial and sex-based harassment in public schools violates the Constitution’s most basic promise of equal protection,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will help ensure that Black and LGBTQ students can thrive in a safe and supportive educational environment going forward. No student deserves to be subject to unlawful and harmful bullying or harassment, especially once they enter the schoolhouse door.”
“Schools should feel safe for all children, but when harassment does happen, schools have an obligation to respond appropriately so that every child has equal access to their education,” said U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest for the District of Vermont. “Here, the District has agreed to take significant steps to improve its process for responding to harassment and its overall educational environment.”
Under the settlement agreement, the district agreed to implement the following reforms:
- Modify district policies and procedures to prevent and address peer harassment;
- Undertake periodic assessments of school climate at Twin Valley Middle-High School and implement responsive programming to remedy hostile educational environments; and
- Improve training for district employees who receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints of harassment.
The district cooperated throughout the investigation, which was conducted under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Protecting the constitutional rights of public-school students is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justive.gov/crt/, and additional information about the Educational Opportunities Section’s work is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section. Additional information about the District of Vermont’s Civil Rights Program is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-vt/civil-rights-program.
To report a possible civil rights violation, please visit www.civilrights.justice.gov/.