High school institutes new anti-bullying laws

By Mia Rossi
Administrators are making a point to enforce New Jersey’s new and significantly stricter anti-bullying law, an update of a 2002 anti-bullying law that legislators said failed to carry out the policies needed to prevent bullying in schools.
   “We have already been implementing these policies in our school; the new law just requires us to do an extra layer of investigating and reporting,” said Assistant Principal Timothy Donahue. This extra layer of investigation requires the district superintendent to submit a report to the board of education twice a year, detailing all of the incidents that have been investigated.
“The superintendent will be reporting on the number of students involved in the incident, what type of behavior was shown and what the follow-up actions and repercussions were. All student names are kept confidential in the report; the board just wants to see what type of bullying is going on within the schools,” said anti-bullying coordinator Cailin Taggart.
The new law, nicknamed the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” requires punishment for bullying that occurs both on and off school premises, including  cyber bullying.
“We have full responsibility for cyber- bullying that occurs off the school campus. Cyber bullying can be reported to the school by other students and parents who witness it,” said Donahue. Students reported for cyber bullying are at risk of suspension and, in the most serious cases, expulsion.
Although the law has a strong focus on preventing bullying among students, it also has an impact on the administrators and other school personnel who are required to go through extensive training in the law’s enforcements. “State officials trained administrators in all schools this summer and we used what we learned there to train our teachers,” said Principal David Heisey, Ed.D.
The new law is a more extensive version of the laws that have already been in place in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District. “The law is just a formalization of a process that has been ongoing in our school system. All laws are 50 percent proactive and 50 percent reactive. We are hoping that eventually we will only be doing proactive work,” said Taggart.
Administrators have faith that the policies will alert students to the school’s no-tolerance policy toward bullying. “Our school district consistently seeks to ensure that students are treated fairly.  The new law promotes students taking responsibility for their actions, and fair and impartial investigations when incidents arise,” said Superintendent of Schools Margaret Hayes, Ed.D.