SCHOOLS’ OBLIGATIONS UNDER NEW JERSEY’S ANTI-BULLYING LAW
Under New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (the “Anti-Bullying Law”), districts and school are required to implement a number of policies, procedures and personnel to help prevent and deal with bullying. Here, we look at some specific obligations of districts and schools under the Anti-Bullying Law.
Each school district is required to implement, and distribute annually to parents, a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying (“HIB”) (see article discussing covered conduct). The school district must consider the input of parents and students in developing the policy, which should address students’ expected behavior, consequences for acts of HIB and reporting and investigation procedures. Importantly, the district’s policy must provide for anonymous reporting to help guard against the fear of retaliation.
School Safety/Anti-Bullying Team
School Safety Teams, which include a parent member, are required to develop, foster and maintain a positive school climate. The School Safety Team is responsible for, among other things, receiving HIB complaints and reports, identifying and addressing patterns of HIB, strengthening HIB policies and educating the community.
Anti-Bullying Specialist and Coordinator
Every school is required to appoint an anti-bullying specialist, whose job it is to chair the school’s safety team, lead HIB investigations and act as the general point person for all things HIB related at the school. The anti-bullying specialist will often be the school’s guidance counselor, psychologist or other similarly trained individual.
An anti-bullying coordinator, who is responsible for the district’s HIB policies and collaborating with the schools’ anti-bullying specialists, the superintendent and board of education, must also be appointed by each district.
The districts and school are required to post on their website homepages the HIB grade assigned to them by the Department of Education based on self-assessments of Anti-Bullying Law compliance performed by each school. The maximum grade a school can receive is a 78, with the district’s score being the average of all its schools. The self-assessment must also be presented at a public board of education meeting in order to obtain public comment and board approval.
Suicide Prevention Instruction
As a corollary to the Anti-Bullying Law, teachers are required to undergo at least two hours of suicide prevention instruction as part of their professional development period. That instruction is to include information on the relationship between suicide and incidents of HIB as well as reducing the risk of suicide in students who are members of communities identified as having a high risk of suicide.
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