How's NJ's New Anti-Bullying Legislation Working for You?

Not so well, according to the Allamuchy Board of Education, which has filed a complaint with NJ’s Council on Local Mandates claiming that the extra costs incurred by districts amounts to an unfunded mandate. The legislation went into effect September 1st.

(Allamuchy must have missed that part of the training that all school employees and volunteers sat through, which drew attention to the fact that the legislation actually mandates that school spend no money on meeting the mountain of regulations that comprise NJ’s Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying laws (HIB). What power our legislators have! Speak and it shall be so.)

NJ Spotlight quotes New Jersey School Boards Association’s Frank Belluscio, who says, "We're just 45 days into the implementation, but we have heard there has been an additional administrative burden. We will be doing data collection to what impact this is having."

James Ahearn in this morning’s Record describes how HIB works in Ridgewood., a wealthy district in Bergen County. There, a teacher overheard a kid call another kid “a retard.” Instead of reprimanding the kid, as past practice would indicate,

The Ridgewood teacher told administrators of the incident, as required by the law. School officials met with both sets of parents and filled out a report. It would be sent to the district superintendent, the school board and the state Department of Education.

Anthony Orsini, the principal of Benjamin Franklin, said of the offending student, “Now it’s on his record that he committed an act of HIB [Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying]. The consequences are real now, potentially. It’s possible a college could get access to a disciplinary record. I can’t say to a parent that it’s not possible, and that’s a concern in a place like Ridgewood.

Overkill? Poor use of administrators/parents time? Appropriate? You choose. But here’s the interesting part. Ahearn then considers the impact of the HIB legislation on a poor district, Eastside High School in Paterson:

Last year, the school was divided into three academies, each with its own curriculum, staff, entrance and uniforms, to give students a “small school” experience. No complaints of bullying were filed at Eastside in September. None. The reorganization into academies may have been partly responsible. But Stephanie Roberts, the school’s anti-bullying specialist, also says that in an urban school environment like Eastside, students don’t bother asking officials to intervene when insults are exchanged. Instead, there is “an altercation or a fight.”