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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anti-Bullying Law...NOW WHAT?!?

"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself."
- Dan Olweus

Bullying is one of the most important issues children are faced with during their school career. The four main types of bullying in school are physical bullying, verbal bullying, social bullying, and cyber bullying. Physical bullying is any unwanted physical contact intended to cause bodily harm which includes punching, kicking, or shoving. Verbal bullying includes things like insults, name-calling, and racial slurs. Social bullying is the spreading of rumors and gossip or the outright exclusion or isolation of another. Cyber bullying is any form of bullying through the use of the Internet or other electronic devices such as cell phones. Bullying can affect more than just the bully and the victim. It can affect the bystanders, the general atmosphere of a school, school faculty and staff, the families of all involved, and the entire community. Kids are bullied every day in almost every school all around the world and many of them do not know where to turn for help or even if help is available.

• What should a victim do? Report to someone? What if gets worse? Fight back?
• What should a bystander do? Help? How?
• If a victim fights back against the bully, should there be consequences? If so, what? If not, why?


• "Over half, about 56 percent, of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school." www.bullyinstatistics.org
According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation: Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
• More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
• Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
• Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

• Bullycide is a term used to describe suicide as the result of bullying. New bullying statistics 2010 are reporting that there is a strong connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide, according to a new study from the Yale School of Medicine. Suicide rates are continuing to grow among adolescents, and have grown more than 50 percent in the past 30 years. www.bullyingstatistics.org

It is important that we realize what damage bullying has done to every aspect of a student’s life. Whether it be a small or large instance of bullying, it is always an issue that needs to be addressed. New Jersey has decided to prove that their zero tolerance for bullying has reached an ultimate high. The new Anti-Bullying Law is hoping to change these statistics for the better.

NJ Anti-Bullying Law
New Jersey enacted its public school anti-bullying statute in 2002. In 2007, the law was amended to include cyber-bullying and in 2008 the law required that each school district posted its anti-bullying policy on its website as well as distribute it annually to the parents or guardians of the students from their district. The most recent amendment, known as the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act”, has been touted by many to be the toughest in the nation. Below are the most significant changes that are intended to strengthen the procedures that occur after incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students that occur in school and off school grounds.

• Information regarding the district’s policy must be incorporated into the a school’s employee training program and must be provided to all staff, volunteers who have significant contact with students, and those persons contracted by the district to provide services to students.
• Board members, whether newly appointed, elected, re-elected, or re-appointed, need to complete a training program on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools (but only once).
• Training on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools shall be provided by the New Jersey School Boards Association, through the consultation from a myriad of recognized experts in school bullying
• The principal must notify the district superintendent of schools of all the action taken, which the superintendent must then report twice a year to the board of education.
• The reports will then be used to grade each school in their effort, and the averaging of the schools will result in the district’s grade. The grade received will then be posted on the district’s website within 10 days.
• Acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying must be reported verbally to the school principal on the same day and in writing within 2 days. The principal must then inform the parents or guardians of all involved parties of the incident and the available intervention services. This excludes cases when the incident occurs between students in the special services school district, students in special education, or students with disabilities, in which case, the school employee will have the discretion to determine if the incident merits a formal report.
• The principal must then initiate an investigation within 1 school day of the report which shall be conducted by a school anti-bully specialist. The investigation must be completed within 10 days of the written report. The results of the investigation will then be reported to the superintendent of schools within 2 days of the completion of the investigation. After this, the results of the investigation must be reported to the board of education and the parents of guardians of the involved students.
• The parents or guardians need to receive the results within 5 days of it being reported to the board. They may then request a hearing before the board and this request must be met within 10 days.
• The parent, student, guardian, or organization may file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights within 180 days of the incident.
• The school’s response to the incident can be defined by the principal in conjunction with the school anti-bullying specialist.
• The school district must conduct a re-evaluation, reassessment, and review of its policy, making any necessary revisions and additions.

Positives/Negatives of NJ Anti-Bullying Law

The passing of the new Anti-Bullying law has put into action a whole new group of responsibilities on the school systems. The law has successfully spread a greater awareness of bullying in schools and the effects it has on all students. This comes at a time when bullying related suicides are being increasingly reported in the media. The law has even named the first school week in October as “Week of Respect”, if schools were not previously motivated to deal with harassment, intimidation, and bullying they most certainly are now. The law imposes many consequences onto school districts if they are not following through with reporting and setting up intervention and prevention plans.

The Anti-Bullying law lays out steps that the school must follow from the moment they are informed of a bullying incident until the investigation and report are completed. With the good intentions of the law also come many flaws. It requires training of teachers and staff members in the district, however, where are the workshops and training programs? Are we responsible for setting them up ourselves, and with what resources? The law also states that each public school’s principal is require to appoint the currently employed school counselor, school psychologist or other similarly trained individual as the school anti-bullying specialist. This is a great idea and there should be an anti-bullying specialist at each school but being similarly trained does not help when the training is not about bullying. Most school psychologists would be uncomfortable being labeled as a specialist in a field they are not trained in. School districts will also be graded on their efforts to “implement policies and programs consistent with the ‘Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act’ not on their efforts to identify harassment, intimidation, or bullying.”

The law gives no guidelines to what intervention and prevention plans need to be implemented besides the fact that they need to address bullying, so on what guidelines will they be grading districts? The grade is then required to be posted on the district website, what happens if a school receives a low or failing grade? Will funding be affected? This can become another situation similar to the No Child Left behind Act where schools who need funding the most, in order to set up and implement programs, are not the ones who receive it and are instead punished.

• Should we already be prepared to handle these issues?
• Will grading districts motivate them to do better or only hurt them?
• Should it be the state or the individual school districts who are responsible for setting up training programs? Is it not each district that knows their children and the way their system works best?

This blog was created by:Nick Pomponio, Karena Ferrera, Ifat Sade, Dennis Chae, Charlotte O'Hara, Michelle Cervino