N.J. schools' anti-bullying laws could be costly in long run | State | NewJerseyNewsroom.com -- Your State. Your News.


Jun 01st
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N.J. schools' anti-bullying laws could be costly in long run

antibullying090611_optBY BOB HOLT

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.

Comments (1)
1 Tuesday, 25 October 2011 08:59
We feel that the anti-bullying legislation has good intentions but as it is written now, overreaches.

Our 12 year old son was a target of a bully a few weeks ago. This kid apparently was making fun of my kid behind his back on the school bus - typical kid stuff - along with another kid, both of whom are at my son's bus stop. My son wasn't even aware that they were doing this, but the other kids on the bus were. A note here: My son is slightly autistic, so he is not as socially aware as other kids.

Anyway, an incident occurred on the bus involving this boy and my son - the kid fell on top of my son while he was sitting down and knocked my son's glasses off his face, and the glasses "disappeared" on the bus.

We told the principal that we thought that the anti-bullying legislation just went over and beyond what it should and we were not interested in filing a complaint. However, when the other children on the bus were being asked what happened, they told about these other two kids making fun of my son behind his back, so the school enacted the anti-bullying procedure, and we were notified. In the end, this kid got kicked off the bus for a while and suspended, and apparently his parents have to pay for a new set of glasses, although we haven't heard anything about that yet.

We got form letters that said that our son was a target, but no detail, and that the kid who was responsible would be appropriately punished - no details, name, etc. - just that the school said it did something. Citing "privacy laws" they can't reveal names.

Somehow, this whole thing is really dissatisfying as we didn't get to contact the parents of this child and have an adult conversation about the situation. And our son is still unaware that he was a target of bullying, so we don't even have a teachable moment for him to gain some insight to how kids can be sometimes.

It's ridiculous how kids can't even tease each other - calling someone a name or telling them they look funny - typical kid stuff - just isn't going to be tolerated. How are kids going to know how to deal with conflict and confront bullies in the real world once they're out on their own?

Another example of the government playing "nanny". Just great.

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