The New Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force submitted its report to Gov. Phil Murphy on Dec. 28, 2023.  The report, submitted pursuant to P.L. 2019, c. 179,  examines, evaluates and makes recommendations regarding the implementation of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act,”  N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.

The report covers a number of areas, including HIB definitions, staff responsibilities in reporting and investigating HIB incidents, the role of school climate and social media, athletic coaches and HIB, and the need for funding of HIB initiatives. The Anti-Bullying Task Force made 28 recommendations overall, including recommendations regarding boards of education.

Among its recommendations, the task force suggested that:

  1. NJDOE, in consultation with the school climate state coordinator, review and assess the effectiveness and role of school boards under administrative code and the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.
  2. Boards of education review and approve annual school climate improvement plans in May of each school year. An update on the current year plan’s progress should be provided to the board every December.
  3. Board of education members should receive additional training annually on the importance of addressing school climate issues as part of a bullying prevention plan. They should also be aware of the role of the school climate team in developing, fostering and maintaining a positive school climate.

In preparing its report, the task force heard from a variety of stakeholders, including the New Jersey School Boards Association and its members. In October 2023, the NJSBA testified before the Anti-Bullying Task Force, recommending that the Legislature fully fund the Bullying Prevention Fund, the account set up by the Legislature to reimburse districts for anti-bullying training. The NJSBA also recommended that there be improvements to board members’ access to information that they need to affirm, reject, or modify the superintendent’s decisions in HIB matters, among other recommendations.