The New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR) (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et. seq.) establishes procedures for school districts and the New Jersey Department of Education to handle incidents of bullying, harassment, and intimidation. The ABR covers bullying incidents that take place on school grounds, at school events, on school buses, or even off school grounds, if the incident substantially interferes or disrupts school operations or the rights of other students. In order to qualify as bullying, the incident must be reasonably perceived as being motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, a mental, physical, or sensory disability, or any other distinguishing characteristic.
Under the ABR, a school district must immediately notify the parents of all suspected offenders and suspected victims as soon as possible following a complaint of bullying. If the complainant is a school employee, contractor, or volunteer, the complainant must create a written report. A school official must begin an investigation into the incident no later than one school day following the report, and the investigation must be complete within ten school days of the written report. The Chief School Administrator (CSA) then must take one of the following actions:
- Impose discipline
- Provide intervention services
- Create training programs related to bullying
- Order counseling
- Take any other action necessary to address the incident and prevent future incidents
Next, the CSA must report the incident and the results of the investigation to the Board of Education by the first board meeting following the completion of the investigation. Within five days after the results of the investigation are reported to the Board of Education, the CSA must provide information regarding the investigation and its outcome to the parents.
If parents are unhappy with the investigation or its outcome, they have the right to request a hearing before the Board of Education. See Guidance for Parents on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. A hearing must be held within ten days of the date that a parent requested it. Following the hearing, the Board of Education must produce a written decision that either upholds, rejects, or changes the CSA’s decision. If the parents disagree with the Board’s decision, they can further appeal to the Commission of Education within 90 days of the Board’s decision. Parents who are dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision then can appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Parents have other options to protect their students’ rights, as well. For instance, a parent could file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights Under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), if there is reason to believe that the bullying was motivated by one of LAD’s bias categories. Parents also can take their complaints and concerns to their county office of education, which is the representative of the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) in each county. If they believe that there has been a violation of the law, parents also have the option of calling the police and reporting the alleged crime.
At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC , our attorneys are here to handle all of the different issues that involve families and children, including bullying. We understand how difficult and stressful these types of cases can be in some situations, but we are here to help guide you through these and any other family-related legal proceedings that you may be facing. Contact our offices today to schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced New Jersey lawyers and see what we can do to help with your case.