New Jersey anti-bullying task force says school administrators need more discretion in harassment/bullying investigations
According to The Record, a task force examining the impact of New Jersey’s 2011 anti-bullying law concluded that it has been helpful overall, but that administrators should have more discretion in deciding when to launch full-scale inquiries into allegations of harassment. The task force reported that too many incidents were being investigated as harassment, intimidation, and bullying, which drained excessive time from administrators, and sometimes delayed sanctions of students who had behaved poorly but did not break anti-bullying rules.
The task force said a principal should have discretion to determine whether a reported incident met the minimum standard of the bullying definition before referring the case to the school’s anti-bullying specialist for more thorough scrutiny. However, the task force recognized “that principals are not immune from difficulties in discerning what behavior” constitutes harassment, intimidation, or bullying under the law, and recommended more training for principals on this question.
The task force, which is supposed to issue reports every six months, said it would consider suggestions for clearer criteria they can use. Its seven members, who were appointed by lawmakers and the governor, submitted its report without issuing a press release. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said the agency would take the report into account as it refines its regulations.
Source: The Record, 2/1/13, By Leslie Brody
[Editor's Note: The executive summary of the anti-bullying task force report states:
The Anti-Bullying Task Force was established in order to: 1) provide guidance to school districts on available resources to assist in the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR), 2) examine the implementation of the ABR, 3) draft model regulations and submit them to the Commissioner of Education for use in promulgating regulations to implement provisions of the act, 4) present any recommendations regarding the ABR deemed to be necessary and appropriate, and 5) prepare a report within 180 days of its organizational meeting and annually for the following three years on the effectiveness of the act in addressing bullying in schools.
In September 2011, Legal Clips summarized a New York Times article, which reported on New Jersey’s ABR taking effect. While many parents and educators welcomed the efforts to curb bullying both on campus and online, some superintendents and school board members across New Jersey said the new law reached much too far, and complained that they had been given no additional resources to meet its mandates. It required all public schools to adopt comprehensive anti-bullying policies (there are 18 pages of “required components”), increase staff training, and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.]