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NJ Anti-Bullying Law

What You and Your School Need to Know About the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Law

 

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), in the 2008-2009 school year 28% of 12-18 year olds reported being bullied at school, and about 1,521,000, or 6.0 percent, reported they were cyber-bullied.  Other studies have reported that as many as 43% of youth fear harassment in school bathrooms and 8% of students miss one day of school per month because they are afraid of encountering a bully. 

 

What is bullying?  It is NOT just a conflict or argument between equals. Bullying involves unwanted aggressive action that is designed to intimidate and occurs between individuals with an unequal power relationship.  Bullying can take multiple forms including: physical (i.e. punching, shoving, taking possessions), verbal (teasing, threatening), sexual, psychological (spreading rumors), and more recently, cyber bullying (use of social media, cell phones, etc). 

 

Bullying Signs:  Signs a child may be a target include: 1) fear of going to school (this may include illness as a means to avoid school), 2) physical injuries that they are reluctant to explain, 3) making statements such as “nobody likes me,” 4) low self-esteem, and 5) difficulty asserting themselves.

 

What are the results of bullying? Victims can experience depression, low self-esteem, a drop in school grades, physical symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, etc.), and suicidal thoughts, and can engage in violent behaviors themselves. 

 

The New Law: On January 5, 2011, Governor Christie signed into law the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (P.L.2010, c.122) regarding incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB).  The new law includes incidents that occur on school grounds, at school sponsored events, and off school grounds, which “substantially disrupt(s) or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students.” HIB is added to the list of offenses that may result in suspension or expulsion from school. 

 

NJ Law Definition: HIB is any gesture, written, verbal or physical act, or electronic communication, that is seen as motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or  mental, physical or sensory disability, or other characteristic and that will result in physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to him/her or damage to his/her property, or has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students or creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student. 

 

Requirements: School Districts must now have a policy and procedure in place and made available to parents on the District’s website.  The new law is detailed in its instructions, with very specific time lines for reporting and investigating incidents of HIB.  Also, anti-bullying personnel must be appointed at the district and the school levels to oversee the new policies and procedures with training and continuing education for school personnel.  If you suspect a child is being bullied, immediately consult your school district website for proper procedures.

 

Tracy Druckenbrod, PhD

NJ Psychology License # 4890