In an effort to protect students from the detrimental effects of bullying, New Jersey has implemented a law called the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (“ABR”).  Under the ABR, school districts are required to institute a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying (“HIB”). 

Although the ABR is generally broad, not all conduct, in all places, is within its scope.  To help parents better understand the law, this article breaks down the definition of HIB into its component parts.  However, this article is only meant to provide a basic overview and you should consult the ABR itself or an attorney if you have questions about specific conduct.

What Acts Are Covered by the ABR?

Under the law, HIB includes a single incident or series of incidents of any:

·       gesture;
·       written act;
·       verbal act;
·       physical act; or
·       electronic communication (i.e., cyberbullying).

The act needs to be motivated by actual or perceived characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or some other distinguishing characteristics.  In addition, the ABR only covers acts that substantially interfere with the orderly operation of the school or rights of other students and that:

·       a reasonable person should have known would physically or emotionally harm the  student, damage the student’s property or place the student in reasonable fear of such harm to their person or property;
·       insult or demean a student or group of students; or
·       create a hostile education environment.

In What Places is the ABR Applicable?

The ABR covers any acts of HIB which occur:

·       on school property;
·       at any school-sponsored function;
·       on a school bus; or
·       off school grounds in cases where a school employee is made aware.   

In other words, acts of HIB on school grounds are covered and certain other acts off school grounds may be covered where a school employee was made aware of them. 

A recent case demonstrates the breadth of the ABR as a New Jersey federal court found that insulting Twitter posts about other students were covered.  The court found the ABR was applicable because parents and students complained of the Twitter posts and school officials had to divert their attention from regular duties to perform an investigation.  See Dunkley v. Bd. of Educ. of Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School Dist., 216 F. Supp. 3d 485 (D.N.J. 2016).  Whether an act is covered by the ABR, however, will ultimately depend on the facts and circumstances of a particular situation.


ATTORNEY ADVERTISING. This document is provided by P. Taylor Legal, PLLC for information purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Philip Taylor