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NJ BULLYING COMMISSION ISSUES URGENT CALL FOR REFORM

Noting that nearly 160,000 school children miss school each day because they fear being bullied, the NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools issued a report today aimed at reducing school harassment, intimidation, and bullying: "There Isn't a Moment to Lose: An Urgent Call for Legal Reform and Effective Practices to Combat Bullying in New Jersey Schools."

The 14 member Commission was established by the Governor and the Legislature in January 2008 to study the effects of bullying and to make recommendations for decreasing bullying in schools. In its report, the Commission reviews evidence of the damaging effects of pervasive bullying, ranging from extreme behavior such as suicide and violence toward others to poor academic achievement, increased levels of absenteeism, and feelings of alienation at school. Finding that New Jersey, unlike most other states, has enacted laws and undertaken initiatives to combat bullying in school, the Commission, nonetheless, identified critical ways in which New Jersey's laws and practices must be strengthened.

Some of the Commission's key recommendations include:

  • expanding administrative procedures and remedies available to victims of bullying;
  • protecting students from "cyber" bullying;
  • developing guidance to address particularly vulnerable students, such as those with disabilities or perceived to be LGBT
  • equipping each school with a school climate team trained on best practices in dealing with bullying;
  • establishing regional technical assistance centers to support schools, educators, and parents;
  • creating a school bullying fund to allow DOE to seek public and private money to address school bullying.

ELC attorney Elizabeth Athos participated on a law committee that provided input to the Commission. "The Commission's report is an important step forward," said Ms. Athos. "However, citizens and advocacy groups around New Jersey must now push for the next step of ensuring that the recommendations are enacted and funded."

An appendix to the report warns that there are currently no State funds dedicated to the implementation of anti-bullying laws and practices and that federal funds will be eliminated from the 2010-11 budget. Thus, "NJDOE and school districts will have no dedicated funds to support [harassment, intimidation, and bullying] prevention and intervention activities beyond the 2009-10 school year."

For further information, please email Elizabeth Athos, ELC Senior Attorney, or call (973) 624-1815 x20.

Prepared: December 15, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Education Law Center. All Rights Reserved.