School Climate & Safety

N.J. Schools Brace for Anti-Bullying Rules’ Impact

By Alexandra Rice — September 13, 2011 3 min read

Supporters of New Jersey’s newly amended anti-bullying law say it will create a tough safety net for students who had been afraid to go to school because of continued bullying, even as administrators and others brace for the impact from increased reporting requirements.

The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, which went into effect Sept. 1, includes several key changes to the previous law, particularly by addressing incidents that occur off school grounds, holding educators responsible for reporting all instances of bullying, and appointing an anti-bullying specialist at each school.

Under the new law, educators and school officials will be trained in bullying prevention and intervention and will be responsible for reporting instances of harassment, intimidation, and bullying to the school’s principal. Each school will be graded by the state on its progress, and all grades will be posted on schools’ websites.

If a principal fails to recognize or handle any incident both sufficiently and within the time frame, he or she may be subject to disciplinary action.

“We did this because some incidents were not being addressed, and we feel by addressing an issue promptly, we can handle it before it gets out of hand,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat and one of the sponsors of the bill.

But some school administrators have expressed concern about the costs of implementing the new measure and the possibility of overpolicing students.

To help eliminate overhead costs, the law suggests administrators name guidance counselors and psychologists already employed at the schools as the anti-bullying specialists, but some think that approach will stretch already-thin resources.

“Not every incident will be bullying, but there will be a tendency to want to report it just in case,” Richard Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey School Administrators Association, said in a prepared statement.

The new law came on the heels of public outcry over the suicide last year of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, whose roommate videotaped him having a sexual encounter with a man. The roommate was indicted on hate-crime charges.

The measure requires any adult working in a school who notices an incident of bullying to orally report it to the principal that same day, and a written report detailing the incident must be made to the principal within two days of the occurrence. Parents of all students involved will also be notified within that time frame.

Although the responsibility of reporting any incidents will fall mainly on the shoulders of teachers, it will also be the job of adult volunteers working in the schools, contracted service providers, and other school staff members.

Guidance Offered

Allison Kobus, a New Jersey education department spokeswoman, said the agency sent out a model policy and guidance for districts, but she said it was not up to the department to interpret the language of the law.

As for how to differentiate between child’s play and bullying, the law states: “It is through explanation, dialogue, and skill-building among students and staff that the school district can clearly distinguish, for example, ‘friendly teasing’ and ‘rough and tumble play’ from [harassment, intimidation, bullying].”

But Marcus Rayner, the executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, a Trenton-based tort-reform advocacy organization, said the law puts tremendous responsibility on educators and could put them on the defensive in dealing with behavioral problems in the classroom.

“I think all our educators want to address bullying, but this law is so intricate and detailed and creates so much responsibility for teachers,” Mr. Rayner said. “There are so many ways they can make inadvertent or honest mistakes while trying to do the right thing.”

Ms. Huttle, however, insists tough policies are necessary.

“In the 21st century, there’s Facebook and Twitter and cellphones,” she said. “So bullying doesn’t stop at 3 o’clock, and neither should a school’s authority.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2011 edition of Education Week as N.J. Schools Brace for Impact of Tougher Anti-Bullying Rules

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

School Climate & Safety When Toxic Positivity Seeps Into Schools, Here's What Educators Can Do
Papering over legitimate, negative feelings with phrases like "look on the bright side" can be harmful for teachers and students.
6 min read
Image shows the Mr. Yuck emoji with his tongue out in response to bubbles of positive sayings all around him.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Ingram Publishing/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
6 min read
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP