School bullying is a serious problem. Children who are victims of bullying suffer from low self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, aggression, difficulty controlling anger, and isolation. To combat this problem, the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act was passed. It is the toughest anti-bullying law in the country.
Under the law, harassment, intimidation, and bullying (referred to as HIB) are defined broadly, as “any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race . . . that takes place on school property, at any school sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds . . . that substantially disrupts . . . the rights of other students.”
The Anti-Bullying Act also provides for detailed procedures to report bullying incidents. For instance, all acts of bullying that fit within the above definition must be reported to the school principal on the same day when a school employee sees it or gets reliable information about it. An employee’s failure to report a bullying incident can result in disciplinary action. The school employee must also submit a written report to the principle within two days of the incident. The principal must then inform the parents/guardians of all the students involved and there must be an investigation by the school within one day of the reported incident. The superintendent and the school board must also receive a report of the investigation.
The law also requires that 2 times a year schools must submit reports on harassment, intimidation, and bullying to the Department of Education and to the public. The Department uses the data to create a grade for the school. The Act also requires that school staff be trained in bullying prevention and for the principal to appoint an anti-bullying school specialist.
New Jersey’s anti-bullying law has gotten mostly positive reviews and last year there was a sharp decline in bullying incidents. All parents, whether their children are bullied or bullies, should be aware of it. With the assistance of Charles J. Vaccaro, J.D. Candidate 2015, Rutgers School of Law.