Last week we spoke about implementing anti-bullying programs in our schools and addressed some challenges around making those programs a success. Sometimes implementing a bullying prevention program requires the support of the school board, Department of Education, and even the state legislation before it can achieve the desired results of the program. In 2010, New Jersey passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act to update its bullying prevention legislation from 2002. Partially inspired by many high-profile youth suicides as a result of bullying, including that of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, the Bill of Rights quickly gained notoriety as being the strictest anti-bullying law in the United States. Taking any measures to protect our students against bullying and aggression is a good thing, right? Some educators and administrators disagree, saying that the legislation has gone too far.
Cons to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act
The new legislation includes a lengthy list of additional requirements for schools. Educators and other school staff must report any instances of bullying known to them, on or off campus, if the incidences cause disruption with school operation; failure to comply will result in disciplinary action. Strict timelines were instated for reporting incidents to the principal, who then has a deadline to address and resolve the issue. Another challenge with reporting is determining if an altercation is bullying or a conflict. Inability to distinguish the two may result in additional reports that must be completed. Time used to focus on bullying identification, reporting, and resolution takes away from other issues with which students need assistance.
An initial concern with implementing the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in schools was the financial burden associated with it. Schools are required to attend trainings and create programs, but were not provided additional funding to support these efforts. In March 2012, Governor Christie remedied the problem by amending the legislation to include $1 million dollars for grant funding in the Bullying Prevention Fund. Grants will be distributed to local school districts that have exhausted all other free training options. How much additional work will be required for districts to examine and exhaust free training options? While the grants will help take the financial burdens off of school districts, will it be enough? Is $1 million dollars enough to spread across all the school districts in the state? Only time and experience can give us the answers we’re looking for.
Pros to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act
Implementation of any new program takes time, money, and adjustment to change. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act requires schools to take measures against bullying that prior to the law, may have just been a dream. Financial decisions on how to use money in a limited budget can leave desired programs and trainings by the wayside. Now trainings to keep all school educators and staff abreast of bullying prevention techniques are mandatory. Parental involvement in school activities has always been a challenge for schools, but now in compliance with the new law, schools must create and implement a safety team of parents and school staff to investigate reported incidences. Data isn’t available yet on the effects of the law, making it hard to determine if it will have a positive impact on school climate and bullying incidences. For now we can take comfort that New Jersey schools are combating bullying with full force.
In December 2011, the New Jersey Department of Education released a guidebook on the legislation, discussing the expectations and requirements of the law and how to implement it in your school. If you think that your school could benefit from having the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights implemented, click here to learn how to start that process.
For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.
Click here to register for the FREE webinar: http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f