Lawmaker says it’s time to change New Jersey’s anti-bullying law
New Jersey has what is considered by many to be the toughest anti-bully law in the nation, but one lawmaker is convinced the law needs to be tweaked.
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said under the current system, the parents of the alleged bully are only told their son or daughter has been accused of harassment, intimidation or bullying at the end of an investigation conducted by the school. So he’s crafting a measure to ensure they would be immediately told when their child has been accused of a violation.
Bramnick says if a student is found guilty of bullying another child, “it’s a very serious mark on their history.”
Bramnick says a student accused of bullying has no "due process at all."
"The parents of the bully should be notified there’s a process going on, and they should be able to meet with the principal and simply explain to the principal what they know about the situation.”
“We’re not trying to end the law, we’re not trying to defend bullies, but we are giving the parents of this so-called alleged bully the opportunity to be heard. They should at least have the opportunity to be heard and have a meeting with the principal. That’s all we’re saying.”
Gail Libertucci, an educational advocate and president of A Child Advocacy Place, said New Jersey’s anti-bullying law was enacted for a great purpose but “we’ve come to realize there are some unintended consequences that need to be addressed.”
She noted if a child is found at fault, depending on the school district, “the information is transmitted to the state and therefore it would follow them, let’s say if they apply for college, the student number would indicate that they had a HIB (harassment, intimidation and bullying) case.”
She pointed out in other districts the information is simply kept in a file cabinet, so it’s not consistent what happens to the data.
Libertucci also said if a child is classified as a HIB violator “then they have to go to court to have the label removed, so it’s kind of the reverse of our due process system here in our country where you’re innocent until proven guilty, with a HIB case you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
The Garden State’s anti-bullying law was adopted after the suicide death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi in 2010.
“We don’t want bullies in schools,” said Bramnick. “But if a principal determines to move forward with a bully investigation, it’s important to simply notify the parents of the alleged bully, so they can at least be heard and be notified of the process.
Bramnick said the legislation will be formally introduced within the next month or so.
State Department of Education spokesman Mike Yaple said in a written statement school discipline records are confidential, and parents do have the right to file an appeal if a determination is made their child had bullied another child.