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ADVOCATES TELL NJ ANTI-BULLYING TASK FORCE THAT FURTHER REFORM IS NEEDED

April 23, 2013

On April 11, 2013, New Jersey Special Education Practitioners (NJSEP), with the support of Education Law Center (ELC) and other advocacy groups, presented testimony and written comments to New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Task Force about revisions needed to the state’s anti-bullying law.

NJSEP, a group of over 130 attorneys and advocates representing parents and students in special education cases, recommended the following improvements in the law:

  • Disclosure of records in harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB) cases: many districts decline to release specific information about discipline imposed or other action taken in response to proven HIB, leaving the parents of students who are bullied with inadequate information to assess their child's safety. Since this is an area of frequent dispute between parents and school districts, NJSEP emphasized the need for regulations that follow case law permitting the "targeted, discrete, contemporaneous disclosure" of information to the parents of students who have been the target of bullying.
  • State complaint protocol and complaint form: the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (ABR) requires that state review, through the executive county superintendents’ offices, be available when parents are dissatisfied with implementation of the law at the local level. Unlike the complaint process in special education, the Department of Education has not developed a parent-friendly complaint form that can be used to initiate the review process. While the Department did develop a protocol for the complaint investigation, that protocol is not accessible on the Department's website. 
  • Principal discretion: NJSEP urged the Task Force to modify its recommendation to broaden school principal discretion to determine whether complaints meet the standards for HIB and in some cases decline to investigate complaints under the ABR. NJSEP recommended continuing to require investigations for all complaints that appear to meet the HIB definition.

The Task Force was originally created following a March 2012 revision to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights and was charged with reporting on the effectiveness of the ABR in addressing bullying in schools. The Task Force issued its preliminary report in January 2013, and is now required to issue reports annually for the next three years.

The Task Force has begun to convene focus groups and held three public hearings in March and April to get feedback about the ABR's implementation. NJSEP began its comments at the April 11 hearing by noting that the focus group participants identified by the Task Force fail to include any parents, students, or their advocates. Attorney Jerry Tanenbaum of Schnader Harrison Lewis and Segal LLP, who testified for NJSEP, urged the Task Force to include these critical stakeholders in future focus groups.

"The ABR represents an enormous step forward in efforts to eradicate bullying from NJ schools, and the creation of the Task Force will further strengthen the law," said Elizabeth Athos, the ELC Senior Attorney who worked with Mr. Tanenbaum and attorney Amelia Carolla of Reisman Carolla Gran LLP to write NJSEP's comments to the Task Force. “This is an opportunity to bring students and parents into the process and improve the process through which their grievances can be addressed.”

 

Related Stories:

FUNDING SCHOOLS UNDER STATE FORMULA IS KEY TO IMPLEMENTING NJ ANTI-BULLYING LAW

 

Press Contact: 
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director 
skrengel@edlawcenter.org 
973-624-1815, x24