New Jersey Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Laws – A Closer Look

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If you have a child in the New Jersey school system, no doubt you have heard or read something about your child’s school’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying rules (HIB). If you haven’t, you can find your schools HIB rules on the school’s website.

I attended a district-wide seminar at our high school yesterday titled HIB Presentation for Parents. It was pretty well attended, and there were plenty of questions. Bullying appears to be a topic that people are passionate about.

The main focus of the first part of the seminar was how New Jersey’s HIB Laws, as originally written and updated in 2011, came to be and are meant to be interpreted. The second part of the evening covered types of incidents and what procedure the school is required to follow when an HIB incident is reported.

Some quick stats about HIB incidents in NJ schools in the 2011-12 school year:

  • 35,552 incidents were reported
  • 12,024 were confirmed to be HIB incidents
  • Grades 5- 8 reported 52.5% of the incidents despite having only 31% of the students
  • 90% of incidents reported occurred on school grounds
  • 11.6% of incidents occurred via electronic communication
  • 37% of incidents related to race, gender, sexual orientation or a disability

At dinner before the presentation, I asked my boys, 14 and 15 years old, if they knew about the HIB policies at their school. They said of course, they have an assembly at the beginning of each year where the students are informed of the rules and what the consequences are for the bullies. As follows is a real conversation:

Me: “If you call someone fat, is that bullying?”

Son #1: “It is if that person reports it to a teacher.”

Me: “What? It’s only bullying if it is reported?”

Son #1: “Yes, it has to be reported.”

Me: “Is it wrong to call someone fat?”

Son #2: “Of course it is. The person would feel bad.”

Son #1: “Yeah, you don’t do that. It’s not nice.”

New Jersey’s bullying laws were updated with the goal of protecting everyone in the school system from hurtful behavior. The schools (ours at least) have done a good job explaining to the kids that there are serious repercussions for HIB violations. That being said, parents can’t rely on the schools to teach right and wrong when it comes to interpersonal behavior. That is the parents’ job, and it always will be.


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