Schools Grappling with New Anti-Bullying Law

Judy Hartnett's picture
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The state’s strict new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights has some local school superintendents wondering how they can enforce the rules, deal with the increased work load, and manage the bureaucratic details without additional time and money.

The statute, signed by Gov. Chris Christie in January and enacted Sept. 1, was prompted by the 2010 suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi. The 18-year-old jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate filmed him in a sexual encounter and posted it on the Internet.

The new law requires schools to appoint teams of anti-bullying “coordinators” and “specialists,” heighten awareness of bullying among students through increased character education, and launch an investigation of any suspected incident the day it happens.

It requires school staff to react to bullying that takes place away from school, if it can be shown to “interfere with a student’s education or … severely or pervasively cause physical or emotional harm.”

The law is the topic of much debate among teachers and administrators, said Janice Fipp, Northfield superintendent of schools.

“The whole law was mandated on the Rutgers case, and rightly so,” Fipp said. “But with the mandates have to come funding and personnel. When you talk to some of the other districts, some have one individual person just for the paperwork.”

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