In November 2010, the state of New Jersey passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. The act includes a specific definition of harassment, intimidation and bullying (or HIB). The act also lays out, in a detailed manner, the standards for preventing, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents of HIB.
The main purpose of this act is to clarify and strengthen procedures to not only better manage existing resources, but also reduce the risk of violence and harm for children in NJ schools. It’s a long and detailed document, so this is a summary of NJ’s HIB regulations to which all publicly-funded schools must comply.
All public-school employees (including higher education) in New Jersey must report incidents of HIB to the school’s principal on the same day it occurred. Reporters have the option to remain anonymous.
Reporters do not have to directly witness the incident to come forward. They must also report to the principal if they received reliable information about an incident.
The reporter must also provide a written report of the incident less than two school days after having made the verbal report.
Initiating the HIB Investigation
The school’s principal, or someone designated by the principal, must initiate the investigation within one school day of receiving the verbal report. Upon initiation, the principal or designee must inform the parents of the parties involved that an investigation has begun.
This is also the time in which the principal may assign a staff member to aid in the investigation, particularly if there are many involved parties, a lot of evidence or the incident is complex.
The HIB Investigation
The HIB investigation is carried out by the school’s Anti-Bullying Specialist and must be completed as soon as possible but no more than 10 school days after receiving the written report.
The Anti-Bullying Specialist must send a completed copy of the report:
- to the Superintendent within two school days
- to the Chief School Administrator within two school days
- to the school board prior to their next scheduled meeting
In situations where information is expected but not received within that 10-day period, “the Anti-Bullying Specialist may amend the original report of the results of the investigation to reflect the information”.
New Jerseyan school districts are required to issue a report twice a year detailing the status of HIB in their district. These reports must be presented to the Department of Education.
According to the Tutorial for School Personnel on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, schools are required to provide information regarding:
- the number of reports of HIB
- the status of all HIB investigations
- the nature of the HIB based on the protected categories identified in N.J.S.A. 18A:37-14
- the names of investigators
- the type and nature of any discipline imposed
- any other measures imposed, training conducted or programs implemented to reduce HIB
Using this information, the Department of Education will assign a grade to districts and their schools. Grades must be publicly posted to the school district’s website. The grading is key to helping schools and districts implement new, or improve on existing, anti-bullying initiatives.
New Jersey’s HIB regulations indicate that the principal is responsible for:
- appointing an Anti-Bullying Specialist
- receiving all HIB reports
- initiating HIB investigations
- communicating with parents of involved parties
- contact law enforcement if the incident is also a crime
Chief School Administrator
The Chief School Administrator’s primary role is to ensure that the school district is fulfilling its legal responsibilities according to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.
Their other key responsibility is reporting all incidents to the Board of Education twice per year, once between September 1 and January 1, and again between January 1 and June 1.
Every school district must have an Anti-Bullying Coordinator who is responsible for:
- critiquing and strengthening HIB policies
- providing data to the NJ Department of Education
- meeting with each school’s Anti-Bullying Specialist to discuss procedures and policies
Every school must have an Anti-Bullying Specialist who is responsible for:
- chairing the school safety team
- conducting HIB investigations
- assisting the principal in determining responses
- providing input to the school board if requested
School Safety Team or Anti-Bullying Task Force
The most recent amendment to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act requires every school to form an anti-bullying task force or, less formally, a “school safety team”. The team must consist of:
- a principal (or designee)
- a teacher
- the Anti-Bullying Specialist
- a parent of a student at the school
The team is responsible for:
- promoting a positive school environment
- reviewing complaints and identifying patterns
- participating in HIB training