“Victims of bullying want to resolve incidents as quickly as possible but the new law may actually extend the experience,” said Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the NJASA. “That’s because of the lengthy procedure in place for reporting and resolving bullying incidents.”
Governor Christie signed the new law, P.K. 2010 Chapter 122 to go into effect September 1, 2011. The law, also known as the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, requires school districts, charter schools, the New Jersey Department of Education, other state agencies, professional associations and institutions of higher education to meet a long list of requirements. These include stringent timelines for reporting and investigating incidents and notifying parents.
According to the NJASA, the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights is fraught with shortcomings.
· With an 18-page compliance checklist, the new bullying law is exceptionally prescriptive.
· As a result, there may be a tendency among schools to focus more on meeting the reporting requirements than dealing with the actual incident.
· The law’s definition of bullying is vague and can cover a wide range of situations, including those that may fall within a gray area but still need documentation.
· The reporting process requires extensive paperwork.
· The process also requires action by a specified anti-bullying specialist. If that specialist becomes sick, the process can be delayed.
· If there is a scheduled school vacation, or a staff vacation, the process also can be delayed.
· If the police become involved in a bullying incident, the school may stop its own proceedings, causing even more delays.
The NJASA advocates a fresh look at the HIB law now that it has been in practice in schools. Educators, administrators, parents and students can contribute to the dialogue.
“Let’s hope that legislators and sponsors of the bill are willing to examine its shortcomings, and make the necessary adjustments for a speedy resolution to bullying incidents,” said Dr. Bozza.
The New Jersey Association of School Administrators is an organization of chief education officers and school administrators who lead school districts in New Jersey’s 21 counties. The association’s mission is to ensure a superior statewide system of education. Through ongoing professional training and education, the association shares knowledge among its members about best practices from both educational and administrative perspectives. Its goal is to move education forward by ensuring the highest quality of instruction for all New Jersey children.