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NJ’s Tough Anti-Bullying Law Is Now In Effect. You Got A Problem With That?

Partially in response to Tyler Clementi’s suicide last September, New Jersey has passed “the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights,” the country’s strictest anti-bullying law.

It goes into effect today, and will be implemented over the next few days as students return to the classroom across the state. But are its demands on schools unrealistic?

The New York Times offers a rundown of what’s expected:

Each school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses…

The law also requires districts to appoint a safety team at each school, made up of teachers, staff members and parents, to review complaints. It orders principals to begin an investigation within one school day of a bullying episode, and superintendents to provide reports to Trenton twice a year detailing all episodes. Statewide, there were 2,846 such reports in 2008-9, the most recent year for which a total was available.

New Jersey school districts have already spent more than $259,000 on anti-bullying training manuals and DVDs alone—and probably hundreds of thousands more on additional workshops, lesson plans, posters and other resources.

Most schools will simply appoint their current counselors and social workers to serve as the new anti-bullying “specialists,” but do these employees have the time and experience to thoroughly investigate and write reports on each incident?

And will holding schools legally responsible for bullying invite unwarranted complaints and lawsuits from students and parents?

Unlike Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District, which seems to value neutrality over addressing anti-LGBT attitudes head-on, New Jersey should be commended for taking the issue so seriously. But we need to ask administrators and teachers whether they can reasonably achieve this wide-ranging law’s goals. At least one of them doesn’t think so:

“I think this has gone well overboard,” Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said. “Now we have to police the community 24 hours a day. Where are the people and the resources to do this?”

So does the law go too far or—in a world where social media enables bullies to torment their victims long after they leave the lunchroom—not far enough?

Image via trixOr, Eddie~S, 1319 (Jessica)

By:           Daniel Villarreal
On:           Sep 1, 2011
Tagged: , , , , , ,
  • 20 Comments
    • Mark in NJ
      Mark in NJ

      This law is a game changer. Think about it. Previously, using a 4 letter word in school would get you into more trouble than calling a classmate fat or ugly or retarded or stupid or GAY. But which actually causes harm. I believe that school administrators/staff are 100% responsible for the type of culture that a school has. This law takes away from the discretion of a administration to ignore something that really causes harm and it empowers staff members who in the past might have had to turn a blind eye to things because of administration. Even if the law doesn’t work perfectly. Its about changing what is considered normal acceptable behavior.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 8:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MeowMix
      MeowMix

      I see the pussification of our schools is complete.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 8:53 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mat
      Mat

      What a surprise to see Bozza, a school administrator whining about the workload. He sees this in terms of effor and cost, not lives ruined and lost. Typical administrator. No better than a glorified accountant!

      Schools are charged with the CARE of students as well as their education, and kids are not there by choice. That care must surely include their mental as well as physical wellbeing.

      For too long, schools only see the work that anti-bullying policies cost them, and the difficulty in implementing them. I’m sure that if these teachers were the ones seeing their distraught kids mental states and self-esteem plumetting day after day, they would come to see that no amount of effort is too much to protect the wellbeing of their charges.

      And meowmix, what an idiot you are. To see attempts to protect vulnerable kids from hateful attacks as weakness says a lot about your own insecurities. I think that you and incompassionate people like you are definitely on the problem side of the equation.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 10:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mat
      Mat

      What a surprise to see Bozza, a school administrator whining about the workload. He sees this in terms of effor and cost, not lives ruined and lost. Typical administrator. No better than a glorified accountant!

      Schools are charged with the CARE of students as well as their education, and kids are not there by choice. That care must surely include their mental as well as physical wellbeing.

      For too long, schools only see the work that anti-bullying policies cost them, and the difficulty in implementing them. I’m sure that if these teachers were the ones seeing their distraught kids mental states and self-esteem plumetting day after day, they would come to see that no amount of effort is too much to protect the wellbeing of their charges.

      And meowmix, what an idiot you are. To see attempts to protect vulnerable kids from hateful attacks as weakness says a lot about your own insecurities. @Mark in NJ: I think that you and incompassionate people like you are definitely on the problem side of the equation.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 10:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mat
      Mat

      @Mark in NJ:
      Couldn’t agree more Mark. Whilst teachers have heavy workloads trying to satisfy educational league tables and government legislation, it’s all too easy for bully prevention to take the lowest priority. But if the teachers become legally accountable, with a few test cases to put the fear of punishment into their minds, it will be amazing how quickly their priorities re-adjust.

      Schools can get the best scholastic test results in the world, but it will count for nothing if 25% of the student body is mentally scarred for life in doing so.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 10:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones
      Mr. Enemabag Jones

      @MeowMix:

      I guess that means you’ll be the first to sign up.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 10:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)
      Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

      And how many days…not even weeks…before some overwhelming-PC administrator expells an elementary-school student for the equivalent of the “plastic butter knife is a WEAPON” just for some otherwise innocuous expression.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 10:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Katt
      Katt

      This law can be easily implimented and there have been similar laws put in effect in other cities. Teachers have been working harder instead of smarter for decades now. Imagine how easier their jobs would be in the future if they wrote up a child for bullying and the problem was dealt with instead of waiting until that child actually became violent and disruptive.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 11:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ewe
      ewe

      NJ public education for children is some of the best in this country. I read that statistic frequently.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 11:11 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Riker
      Riker

      The thing I don’t like about this law is that it is an unfunded mandate. In NY we have a property tax cap thanks to Governor Cuomo’s fiscal conservatism, but NJ has no such luck. Some schools will try to skirt around the rules by doing the bare minimum, but most will probably shift the burden to taxpayers.

      On a different note, though, i’m glad states are finally starting to take this seriously.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 11:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike in Asheville
      Mike in Asheville

      I regularly rail about idiotic, illogical, in poor taste snarkiness posts by Queerty/Daniel Villarreal. Pleased to say this is a good post, raising an important topic, a relevant current issue, and posing a question for good debate. So, good job.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pozitive Link
      Pozitive Link

      I commend New Jersey’s efforts in taking anti-bullying so seriously. While some think it’s over the top, I say tell that to the parents of those who lost a child to bullying.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jakey
      Jakey

      @Ted B. (Charging Rhino): Since that hasn’t happened yet, who cares? You don’t avoid putting a law into effect because someone might misinterpret it, you deal with the misinterpretation when it happens.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavyJones
      DavyJones

      It seems far over the top because all it is really doing is fleshing out a bunch of bureaucratic paper flows without providing any means for schools to actually carry out reforms. They

      They want schools to monitor and address bulling on myspace and facebook and in text messages? How long is it going to be until we have the ACLU suing the district over a students freedom of speech online. You can make claims of ‘limited rights’ in the school house, but limiting what a student can publish online? That’s a pretty grey area and I doubt any court will uphold it.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      No, it doesn’t go too far. How many lives are, literally, ruined, due to anti gay antics in school? Mine was. I am 30 years old, but still bear those scars. They absolutely have a responsibility to stop this.

      Had these laws existed before, Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, and all the others might still be alive. I don’t care how much cash is being sunk into this. Do it. You can’t put a price on the well being of innocent kids, and certainly not on human lives. Stop attaching price tags and start enforcing.

      Sep 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavyJones
      DavyJones

      @Shannon1981: Except how does filing extra reports and showing DVDs in classes actually stop bullying? This sounds like a knee-jerk reaction by the state to appear to be doing *something*, even if that something is just wasting tax-payer dollars with little actual results…

      Sep 2, 2011 at 12:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark
      Mark

      This looks great to me. It’s comprehensive, as opposed to “zero tolerance” which is totally ineffective and just puts kids on a path to go to jails.

      Sep 2, 2011 at 12:53 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebizzar
      Sebizzar

      @Pozitive Link: Agreed. Wish more states would have this law.

      Sep 2, 2011 at 4:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      The great majority of teachers are fine, honest, intelligent, and good people, who genuinely care about the kids. They work long hours already, and are never really off duty. They are recognized by students and former students, and their parents, wherever they go. Many of them are genuine forces for good in the community outside of their schools.

      Being aware of a problem, and knowing how to deal with it, are the two major factors that enable teachers to effectively deal with a problem. A few teachers have been a part of this particular problem, but many have just not realized that it is a problem. This program will increase both awareness of, and training about, the bullying problem.

      The administrative labor is a real problem in every one of these programs. Teachers and administrators really do have only so much time and energy. Gathering data about adverse events makes sense, but only if it will be used to improve the outcomes for the kids. Gathering data for no good reason, just takes time and energy away from actually educating the kids.

      Sep 2, 2011 at 7:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim in St Louis
      Jim in St Louis

      Oh Please! I know you have your heart in the right place, but this is a typical liberal reaction to any issue: you have the facts right, but miss the point entirely. The key is to talk to the victim of bullying- not the bully. We should tell the queer kid that they need to find strength within themselves to deal with it. Cause there will never be a world where there ain’t someone who is going to hate you for no good reason. This misdirected focus on the bully only serves to empower the aggressor- to validate that the bully now has power- and that it takes the whole administrative power of the school and the law to put him in his place.

      Bullies only back down when they are confronted- not saying a fist fight, but to be able to stand tall and look them in the eye and tell them to “kiss my a$$” If a child never learns this then they end up with a Clemente type outlook that suicide is the answer.

      Sep 5, 2011 at 7:19 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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