Some people are saying that New Jersey’s new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights are among the toughest in the nation. Many school officials are still getting used to the laws, and trying to acclimate them into their school’s daily routine.
The anti-bullying bill was passed after the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood.
According to NorthJersey.com, in Ridgewood, a Benjamin Franklin Middle School teacher recently overheard a student calling his friend “a retard” during lunch. School employees are required to file a written report with the principal within two days. Then school officials met with both sets of parents and filled out a report that was sent to the district superintendent, the school board and the New Jersey Department of Education.
Benjamin Franklin principal Anthony Orsini, said, “Now it’s on the offending student’s record that he committed harassment, intimidation and bullying. It’s possible a college could get access to his disciplinary record.”
The New York Times reports that each school now has to designate an anti-bullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district will have an anti-bullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate each case and post grades on its web site. Educators who don’t abide by the rules may lose their licenses, according to superintendents. This is without state funding to help.
Some administrators are concerned that making schools legally responsible for bullying will lead to more complaints and potential lawsuits from students and parents unhappy with the result of incidents.
The law requires that all public school teachers and staff members receive training in suicide prevention and in recognition of harassment, intimidation and bullying. Students guilty of bullying may receive penalties of suspension and/or expulsion.
Ridgewood has heard about 10 to 15 complaints a day since the beginning of the fall term, while Eastside High School in Paterson has seen no complaints. According to MercerSpace, Hamilton Township has named the first week of October the “Week of Respect,” meant to make children aware of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.
Hamilton director of educational services Michael Gilbert said the new law places some blame for bullying on those who witness an incident, and he wants students to know they are empowered by the responsibility. He believes that students could have a real effect on eliminating bullying by sharing the burden.