Having an effective anti bullying culture, developed and enforced with an effective Harassment, Bullying and Intimidation (HIB) policy and combined with state laws and procedures, is proving to be no easy task for New Jersey.
New Jersey is one of 41 states that have both an anti bullying law and an accompanying bullying policy, which has resulted in each school district adopting its own HIB policy. Since these policies are relatively new (enacted in September 2011), select few of the bullying charges that have been challenged by the accused are being reviewed by the New Jersey Education Commissioner.
The latest such case comes from Ridgewood, NJ, where a male middle school student is accused of calling a female counterpart “horse”, “fat” and “fat ass”. While the boy did admit to calling her a “horse”, he denies that his intent was bullying.
The Education Commissioner upheld the decision in the Ridgewood case, which appears to be reasonable based on facts presented. The boy will be required to serve two detentions, but the charges will not be included as part of his student record for the purpose of college admission.
Cleary a sound policy is required for dealing with advanced cases of bullying that are brought to a school’s attention, and it looks as though we are moving in the right direction. What strikes me as troubling is the fact that, as reported in the story, in the 12 months following implementation of the new bullying laws there were 12,000 reported bullying cases in New Jersey alone, or 66 per school day.
An effective bullying policy can’t be an enabler for parents to push more and more parenting responsibility onto the schools. Either there are far too many school bullies, or too many false or marginal cases being reported to schools rather than being resolved at home. I suspect it’s more the former than the latter but either way, the solution needs to start with parents teaching and reinforcing the right way to treat others, and the right way to deal with a real or imagined slight at school.
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