NJ to decide whether comparing student’s haircut to Trump is ‘bullying’
MANSFIELD (BURLINGTON) — A Burlington County mother wants a redo after her son was labeled a bully for comparing a 6th-grade classmate's haircut to President Trump's coiffure.
The school said the 11-year-old's remark back in December 2017 constitutes bullying, harassment and intimidation.
After the mother appealed the determination, an administrative law judge in April refused to overturn the decision. But last month, the state's education commissioner ordered the Office of Administrative Law to conduct a hearing and hear the mother's reasoning as to why the school's decision may have been arbitrary or in bad faith.
Since 2010, school districts have been bound to quickly report and adjudicated suspected cases of bullying and harassment under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.
While the law includes a comprehensive definition of what is bullying, there is occasional disagreement among parents, districts and state officials over what is or isn't.
The expansive definition of harassment intimidation and bullying (often referred to simply as HIB) includes any written or verbal communication, on or off school grounds, motivated by any actual or perceived characteristics including race or religion, that any "reasonable person should know" will physically or emotionally harm a student.
Here's an excerpt from the law:
State officials and judges have said that mere teasing does not constitute bullying. But despite growing case law, new examples sometimes result in years-long appeals and hearings that can continue even after the students involved have entered college and adulthood.
In recent years, officials have determined the following not to be bullying:
⛔ A former Hunterdon Central Regional High School baseball player's complaints that coaches targeted "healthy white heterosexual male student athletes” and “quiet, mild mannered and respectful” players like him for harsher treatment.
⛔ A 7th-grade Haddonfield girl being told she was fat, ugly, unpopular and that she should die.
⛔ A Fair Lawn teen making an anti-Israel comment on Twitter.
⛔ A 7th-grader in Readington being called a "know-it-all."
Last school year, districts reported 7,183 incidents of harassment and bullying, about 400 fewer than the previous year. Just over half of all incidents happened in middle school. About 80% occurred exclusively on school grounds with another 11% happening both on and off school property.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.