On Oct. 5, the New Jersey School Boards Association testified before New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Task Force, which recently held two public hearings to provide families, students and other stakeholders an opportunity to share experiences regarding the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act in New Jersey schools. The Association also submitted written testimony.
An in-person hearing was held Oct. 4 at the New Jersey Department of Education building at Riverview Plaza in Trenton, and a virtual hearing was held Oct. 5 via Microsoft Teams.
John J. Burns, senior legislative counsel at NJSBA, delivered testimony on behalf of the Association, outlining several ways that the state could better support school districts in efforts to address harassment, intimidation and bullying. “The NJSBA believes that boards of education have a responsibility to ensure that schools are safe havens for learning by taking actions to diminish the potential for violence and bullying in their schools,” NJSBA’s testimony reads. He went on to list several ways in which the New Jersey State Department of Education, the State Legislature and other agencies can assign a high priority to the issue of school violence, harassment, intimidation and bullying, such as by providing funding for the Bullying Prevention Fund, improving the access boards education have to HIB investigation information, providing guidance concerning when a board may affirm, reject, or modify a superintendent’s decision and amending regulation or statute to clarify what is a “real or perceived power imbalance” — as that phrase is used in New Jersey Department of Education regulations describing bullying.
The Association’s testimony continued, “The NJSBA also believes that students have the right to be educated in an environment free of discrimination and intimidation that promotes mutual respect and acceptance among the students regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, physical ability, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation and perceived difference. Students should be expected to treat each other with respect and should not be subjected to or subject other students to demeaning remarks, whether discriminatory and/or intimidating statements and/or actions.”
Hearing from individuals who have been affected by New Jersey’s anti-bullying law will greatly inform the work of the task force, which is charged with examining its impact and making recommendations for improving the way that harassment, intimidation and bullying is addressed in schools. Insights gained from the sessions may be incorporated into the Anti-Bullying Task Force’s upcoming report.
The task force is still accepting written testimony, which can be sent in via email.