Did you know that October is National Bullying Prevention Month? Or that New Jersey requires all public-school districts to designate the first full week of October as the Week of Respect? These events aim to promote bullying prevention, kindness, and inclusion in schools.
With the rise of suicides amongst children and teens in New Jersey as a result of student bullying, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR) along with related laws were amended in 2022 to create stronger protections for deterring and tracking bullying. These changes include the following:
- If a student commits “cyber-harassment,” municipal court may order the student, along with the parent or guardian to attend a class or training to reduce tendency towards such behavior or raise awareness of dangers associated with cyber harassment.
- If a parent or guardian fails to comply with a municipal court order regarding cyber harassment, they may be fined up to $100 for a first offense, and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.
- In the case of cyber harassment, it a parent or guardian may be liable in a civil action if it can be shown that the parent or guardian acted in willful or wanton disregard in the exercise of supervision of a minor.
- If the school district’s harassment, intimidation, and bullying (“HIB”) policy permits the principal to make a “preliminary determination” as to whether a HIB investigation should be conducted, then the superintendent must annually report to the Board of Education the number of times the preliminary determination was found to be outside the scope of HIB.
- If an alleged incident of HIB is found to be a verified incident of HIB, copies of the results of the investigation must be placed in the file of the student who committed the act of HIB.
- New parameters for responding to first, second, or any further acts of HIB by a student have been established. For the first offense, a copy of the investigation is placed in a student’s file and the student may be subject to remedial measures (counseling, behavior intervention services, discipline determined by principal in consultation with appropriate staff). For the second offense, the response is the same.
- If a student is found to have committed three incidents of HIB, in addition to a copy of the report being placed in the student’s record and implementation of remedial measures, the principal must develop an individual student intervention plan to address this student’s behavior. If the student commits additional verified acts of HIB, each act requires a principal to develop an individual student intervention plan.
- When submitting a written report of HIB to the principal, the written report must be on the HIB 338 Form (a form prepared by the State that all districts must use in order to promote consistency in HIB reporting).
- The district shall provide a means for a parent or guardian to complete the HIB 338 Form, specified for Families and Caregivers, online and confidentially to report an incident of HIB (district staff are not permitted to remain anonymous but instead must complete the form within two days of any incident or report).
- The district must keep a written record of the date, time, and manner whenever they notify parents or guardians about the alleged HIB incident.
If you believe your child has fallen victim to bullying, be sure to immediately report it, using a form on your school district website. If the school district does not agree to conduct an investigation, you disagree with final determination following an investigation, and/or if you are concerned that the school district is not taking appropriate measures to keep your child safe, our compassionate team of attorneys and advocates are here to guide you through the process.