On January 6, 2011, NJ Governor Chris Christie signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. This bill represents a sweeping overhaul of NJ’s previous anti-bullying legislation, enacted in 2002. It is without question the most far-reaching and strongest anti-bullying legislation of any state in the nation. It mandates that schools take clear and demonstrable steps to curb the harassment of students.
The bill, which goes into effect in September 2011, gained momentum after the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, whose roommate posted a romantic encounter between Clementi and another male student on the Internet.
The New Mandates on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights
Here are some highlights of the new law:
- It requires that every school district have an anti-bullying coordinator and that each school have an anti-bullying specialist responsible for leading a school safety team which includes the principal, a teacher, and a parent.
- Teachers and other school staff are required to report incidents of bullying to principals on the day the incident occurs. An investigation of the incident must begin within one school day. The school must complete its investigation within school days, after which there must be a resolution of the situation.
- The law requires that schools inform the parents of students involved in a bullying incident, including the parents of both bully and victim, on the day of the incident. The school must also offer counseling and other interventions in an effort to resolve the problem.
- The law applies to bullying that takes place outside the school building but is related to school activities, including bullying on school buses and at school-sponsored functions. It also applies to cyberbullying, which may be initiated outside school walls but carries over into school.
- The law requires that schools provide anti-bullying instruction appropriate to each grade throughout the year, as well as conduct a yearly Week of Respect in every school that includes anti-bullying activities.
- All schools will be graded on how well they deal with bullying. This grade must be posted on the school web page along with contact information for the anti-bullying specialist in that school.
- This law protects all bullied students, not just bullied students who belong to select groups.
- This law uses existing school resources to deal with the issue, creating no new government entities and requiring no extra costs to taxpayers.
Dr. Kenneth Shore is a school and family psychologist in NJ, and a part-time instructor at Rutgers. Visit his website at drkennethshore.nprinc.com.