ASSEMBLY, No. 5579

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

220th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED JUNE 8, 2023

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman† STERLEY S. STANLEY

District 18 (Middlesex)

Assemblyman† JOHN F. MCKEON

District 27 (Essex and Morris)

Assemblywoman† SHANIQUE SPEIGHT

District 29 (Essex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman McKnight

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Clarifies policy analysis and development under ďAnti-Bullying Bill of Rights ActĒ; strengthens investigations; amends definition of harassment, intimidation, and bullying; and allows anti-bullying specialists to receive remuneration.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning harassment, intimidation, and bullying and amending and supplementing P.L.2002, c.83 and P.L.2010, c.122.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† Section 2 of P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-14) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 2.††† As used in this act:

†††† "Electronic communication" means a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager;

†††† "Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, by one student against another student, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds as provided for in section 16 of P.L.2010, c.122 (C.18A:37-15.3), that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students and that:

†††† a.†††† a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property;

†††† b.††† has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or

†††† c.†††† creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student's education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.

(cf: P.L.2010, c.122, s.11)

 

†††† 2.††† Section 3 of P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-15) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 3. a. Each school district shall adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying by a student on school property, at a school-sponsored function or on a school bus. The school district shall adopt the policy through a process that includes representation of parents or guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators, and community representatives.

†††† b.††† A school district shall have local control over the content of the policy, except that the policy shall contain, at a minimum, the following components:

†††† (1) a statement prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying of a student;

†††† (2) a definition of harassment, intimidation or bullying no less inclusive than that set forth in section 2 of P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-14);

†††† (3) a description of the type of behavior expected from each student;

†††† (4) consequences and appropriate remedial action for a [person] student who commits an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying.† The consequences for a student who commits an act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying may include: for the first act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying committed by a student, a copy of the results of the investigation shall be placed in the student's record and the student may be subject to remedial actions, including the provision of counseling or behavioral intervention services, or discipline, or both, as determined by the principal in consultation with appropriate school staff; for the second act, a copy of the results of the investigation shall be placed in the student's record and the student may be subject to remedial actions, including the provision of counseling or behavioral intervention services, or discipline, or both, as determined by the principal, in consultation with appropriate school staff; and for the third and each subsequent act, a copy of the results of the investigation shall be placed in the student's record, and the principal, in consultation with appropriate school staff, shall develop an individual student intervention plan which shall be approved by the superintendent of schools or the superintendent's designee, and may include remedial actions including counseling or behavioral intervention services, or progressive discipline, or both, and may require the student, accompanied by a parent or guardian, to complete in a satisfactory manner a class or training program to reduce harassment, intimidation or bullying behavior.

†††† The superintendent of schools or the superintendent's designee and the principal shall consult law enforcement, as appropriate, pursuant to the provisions of the Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials, if the student's behavior may constitute a possible violation of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice;

†††† (5)† a procedure for reporting an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying, including a provision that permits a person to report an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying anonymously; however, this shall not be construed to permit formal disciplinary action solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

†††† All acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall be reported verbally to the school principal on the same day when the school employee or contracted service provider witnessed or received reliable information regarding any such incident.† The principal shall inform the parents or guardians of all students involved in the alleged incident, and may discuss, as appropriate, the availability of counseling and other intervention services.† The principal shall keep a written record of the date, time, and manner of notification to the parents or guardians.† All acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall be reported in writing to the school principal within two school days of when the school employee or contracted service provider witnessed or received reliable information that a student had been subject to harassment, intimidation, or bullying.† The written report shall be on a numbered form developed by the Department of Education.† A copy of the form shall be submitted promptly by the principal to the superintendent of schools.† The form shall be completed even if a preliminary determination is made under the school district's policy that the reported incident or complaint is a report outside the scope of the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying pursuant to section 2 of P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-14), and shall be kept on file at the school but shall not be included in any student record, unless the incident results in disciplinary action or is otherwise required to be contained in a student's record under State or federal law.† A redacted copy of the form that removes all student identification information shall be confidentially shared with the board of education after the conclusion of the investigation, if a hearing is requested by a parent or guardian pursuant to subparagraph (d) of paragraph (6) of this subsection.

†††† The school district shall provide a means for a parent or guardian to complete an online numbered form developed by the Department of Education to confidentially report an incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying.

†††† The principal shall report to the superintendent if a preliminary determination is made under the school district's policy that the reported incident or complaint is a report outside the scope of the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, and the superintendent may require the principal to conduct an investigation of the incident, if the superintendent determines that an investigation is necessary because the incident is within the scope of the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying.† The superintendent shall notify the principal of this determination in writing;

†††† (6) a procedure for prompt investigation of reports of violations and complaints, which procedure shall at a minimum provide that:

†††† (a) the investigation shall be initiated by the principal or the principal's designee within one school day of the report of the incident and shall be conducted by a school anti-bullying specialist.† The principal may appoint additional personnel who are not school anti-bullying specialists to assist in the investigation.† The investigation shall be completed as soon as possible, but not later than 10 school days from the date of the written report of the incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying or from the date of the written notification from the superintendent to the principal to initiate an investigation pursuant to paragraph (5) of this subsection.† In the event that there is information relative to the investigation that is anticipated but not yet received by the end of the 10-day period, the school anti-bullying specialist may amend the original report of the results of the investigation to reflect the information;

†††† (b) the results of the investigation shall be reported to the superintendent of schools within two school days of the completion of the investigation, and in accordance with regulations promulgated by the State Board of Education pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), the superintendent may decide to provide intervention services, establish training programs to reduce harassment, intimidation, or bullying and enhance school climate, impose discipline, order counseling as a result of the findings of the investigation, or take or recommend other appropriate action including seeking further information;

†††† (c) the results of each investigation shall be reported to the board of education no later than the date of the board of education meeting next following the completion of the investigation, along with information on any services provided, training established, discipline imposed, or other action taken or recommended by the superintendent;

†††† (d) parents or guardians of the students who are parties to the investigation shall be entitled to receive information about the investigation, in accordance with federal and State law and regulation, including the nature of the investigation, whether the district found evidence of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or whether discipline was imposed or services provided to address the incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying.† This information shall be provided in writing within 5 school days after the results of the investigation are reported to the board.† A parent or guardian may request a hearing before the board after receiving the information, and the hearing shall be held within 10 days of the request.† The board shall meet in executive session for the hearing to protect the confidentiality of the students.† At the hearing the board may hear from the school anti-bullying specialist about the incident, recommendations for discipline or services, and any programs instituted to reduce such incidents;

†††† (e) at the next board of education meeting following its receipt of the report pursuant to subparagraph (c) of paragraph (6) of this subsection, the board shall issue a decision, in writing, to affirm, reject, or modify the superintendent's decision.†† The board's decision may be appealed to the Commissioner of Education, in accordance with the procedures set forth in law and regulation, no later than 90 days after the issuance of the board's decision; and

†††† (f) a parent, student, guardian, or organization may file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights within 180 days of the occurrence of any incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying based on membership in a protected group as enumerated in the "Law Against Discrimination," P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.);

†††† (g)†† (i)† the district shall develop and issue guidance for the school anti-bullying specialist and any additional personnel appointed to assist in the investigation.† The guidance shall include general points of inquiry, access to past investigation files, and a rubric for the investigator to complete over the course of the investigation.

†††† (ii)†† the district shall develop and issue guidance for the parents or guardians of students enrolled in grades K through 8 and students enrolled in grades 9 through 12, as applicable.† The guidance shall outline what the investigation process entails and identify what resources are available to a student during the investigation process.†

†††† (iii)† guidance issued pursuant to this subparagraph shall comply with the provisions of federal and State law governing disclosure of student records including, but not limited to, the ďFamily Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974,Ē (20 U.S.C. s. 1232g);

†††† (7) the range of ways in which a school will respond once an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying is identified, which shall be defined by the principal in conjunction with the school anti-bullying specialist, but shall include an appropriate combination of services that are available within the district such as counseling, support services, intervention services, and other programs, as defined by the commissioner.† In the event that the necessary programs and services are not available within the district, the district may apply to the Department of Education for a grant from the "Bullying Prevention Fund" established pursuant to section 25 of P.L.2010, c.122 (C.18A:37-28) to support the provision of out-of-district programs and services;

†††† (8) a statement that prohibits reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying and the consequence and appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in reprisal or retaliation;

†††† (9) consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person found to have falsely accused another as a means of retaliation or as a means of harassment, intimidation or bullying;

†††† (10) a statement of how the policy is to be publicized, including notice that the policy applies to participation in school-sponsored functions;

†††† (11) a requirement that a link to the policy be prominently posted on the home page of the school district's website and distributed annually to parents and guardians who have children enrolled in a school in the school district;

†††† (12) a requirement that the name, school phone number, school address and school email address of the district anti-bullying coordinator be listed on the home page of the school district's website and that on the home page of each school's website the name, school phone number, school address and school email address of the school anti-bullying specialist and the district anti-bullying coordinator be listed. The information concerning the district anti-bullying coordinator and the school anti-bullying specialists shall also be maintained on the department's website; and

†††† (13) a requirement that the school district and each school in the district with a website post on its homepage the current version of the document, Guidance for Parents on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, developed by the Department of Education.† The School Climate State Coordinator shall ensure that this document is updated as needed and then promptly disseminated to all school districts.

†††† c.†††† A school district shall adopt a policy and transmit a copy of its policy to the appropriate executive county superintendent of schools by September 1, 2003.† A school district shall annually conduct a re-evaluation, reassessment, and review of its policy, making any necessary revisions and additions.† The board shall include input from the school anti-bullying specialists in conducting its re-evaluation, reassessment, and review.† The district shall transmit a copy of the revised policy to the appropriate executive county superintendent of schools within 30 school days of the revision.† The first revised policy following the effective date of P.L.2010, c.122 (C.18A:37-13.1 et al.) shall be transmitted to the executive county superintendent of schools by September 1, 2011.

†††† d. (1) To assist school districts in developing policies for the prevention of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, the Commissioner of Education shall develop a model policy applicable to grades kindergarten through 12.† This model policy shall be issued no later than December 1, 2002.

†††† (2) The commissioner shall adopt amendments to the model policy which reflect the provisions of P.L.2010, c.122


(C.18A:37-13.1 et al.) no later than 90 days after the effective date of that act and shall subsequently update the model policy as the commissioner deems necessary.

†††† e.†††† Notice of the school district's policy shall appear in any publication of the school district that sets forth the comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for schools within the school district, and in any student handbook.

†††† f.†††† Nothing in this section shall prohibit a school district from adopting a policy that includes components that are more stringent than the components set forth in this section.

(cf: P.L.2021, c.338, s.3)

†††† 3.††† Section 17 of P.L.2010, c.122 (C.18A:37-20) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 17. a. The principal in each school in a school district shall appoint a school anti-bullying specialist.† When a school guidance counselor, school psychologist, or another individual similarly trained is currently employed in the school, the principal shall appoint that individual to be the school anti-bullying specialist.† If no individual meeting this criteria is currently employed in the school, the principal shall appoint a school anti-bullying specialist from currently employed school personnel.† The school anti-bullying specialist shall:

†††† (1)†† chair the school safety team as provided in section 18 of P.L.2010, c.122 (C.18A:37-21);

†††† (2)†† lead the investigation of incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying in the school; [and]

†††† (3)†† act as the primary school official responsible for preventing, identifying, and addressing incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying in the school; and

†††† (4)†† be eligible to receive a stipend in an amount not to exceed $1,000, which shall be paid in two installments over the course of the school year.

†††† b.††† The superintendent of schools shall appoint a district anti-bullying coordinator.† The superintendent shall make every effort to appoint an employee of the school district to this position.† The district anti-bullying coordinator shall:

†††† (1)†† be responsible for coordinating and strengthening the school district's policies to prevent, identify, and address harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students;

†††† (2)†† collaborate with school anti-bullying specialists in the district, the board of education, and the superintendent of schools to prevent, identify, and respond to harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students in the district;

†††† (3)†† provide data, in collaboration with the superintendent of schools, to the Department of Education regarding harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students; and

†††† (4)†† execute such other duties related to school harassment, intimidation, and bullying as requested by the superintendent of schools.

†††† c.†††† The district anti-bullying coordinator shall meet at least twice a school year with the school anti-bullying specialists in the district to discuss and strengthen procedures and policies to prevent, identify, and address harassment, intimidation, and bullying in the district.

†††† d.††† A school district may seek reimbursement from the Department of Education for the amounts paid to the districtís anti-bullying specialists pursuant to paragraph (4) of subsection a. of this section.† In order to be eligible for reimbursement, the school district shall demonstrate that funding the stipend for the anti-bullying specialist creates a financial burden on the district.† The department shall provide full reimbursement to a district that demonstrates a financial burden in accordance with this subsection.

(cf: P.L.2010, c.122, s.17)

 

†††† 4.††† (New section)† a. The board of education of a school district shall create a School Safety Committee to ensure appropriate review and implementation of the districtís harassment, intimidation, and bullying policies. †The committee shall meet at least two times per year.

†††† b.††† The committee shall be comprised of five members who include the principal of a school in the district, or a designee; two teachers, one of whom is a member of a child study team in the district; and two members of the community with relevant experience and expertise in matters involving harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools.

†††† c.†††† The committee shall:

†††† (1)†† review any proposed changes to the school districtís harassment, intimidation, or bullying policy;

†††† (2)†† ensure the schools in the district are complying with the provisions of the ďAnti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act,Ē P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-13 et seq.);

†††† (3)†† coordinate with the school safety teams throughout the district to hold at least two public meetings a year to allow parents and students in the district to discuss concerns surrounding harassment, intimidation, and bullying in the district; and

†††† (4)†† ensure students and parents have access to information and resources on harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

†††† d.††† Notwithstanding any provision of this section to the contrary, a community member who is a member of the School Safety Committee shall not participate in the activities of the committee which may compromise the confidentiality of a student.

 

†††† 5.††† (New section)† a.† The board of education of a school district shall develop a Responsible Use Policy that outlines, in simple and accessible language, the terms of responsible use, by a student, of the Internet and the consequences that may arise when the Internet is misused.† The policy shall include allowable uses of school district Internet services and consequences for use that violates the school districtís policy; ethical use and cyberbullying policies; plagiarism and copyright policies; appropriate use of equipment and accounts policies; New Jersey policies on cyberbullying and harassment, intimidation, and bullying; and age-appropriate guidelines for cellphone use during school hours.†

†††† b.††† A school district shall provide the parent or guardian of an enrolled student with a copy of the Responsible Use Policy.

†††† 6.††† This act shall take effect in the first full school year following the date of enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill amends the definition of harassment, intimidation, and bullying and requires school districts to: develop guidance concerning the districtís harassment, intimidation, and bullying policy; create a School Safety Committee; and develop a Responsible Use Policy.† The bill also permits school districts to pay a stipend to the districtís anti-bullying specialists.

†††† The bill amends the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying to apply only to students.† Under the bill, a school district will develop and issue guidance surrounding the districtís harassment, intimidation, and bullying policy for the anti-bullying specialist and for students.† This guidance will be provided to the anti-bullying specialist, the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in grades K through 8, and students enrolled in grades 9 through 12.

†††† The bill provides that a school anti-bullying specialist is eligible to receive a stipend in an amount not to exceed $1,000.† The bill permits the district to seek reimbursement from the Department of Education for the amounts paid to the districtís anti-bullying specialist if the school district can demonstrate that funding the stipend creates a financial burden on the district.

†††† Under the bill, the board of education of a school district will create a School Safety Committee to ensure appropriate review and implementation of the districtís harassment, intimidation, and bullying policies.† The committee, which is to meet at least two times per year, will be comprised of members that include the principal of a school in the district; two teachers, one of whom is a member of a child study team in the district; and two members of the community with relevant experience in harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools.

†††† Under the bill, a board of education is to develop a Responsible Use Policy that outlines, in simple and accessible language, the terms of responsible use of the Internet and consequences that may arise when the Internet is misused, and provide a copy of the policy to the parents or guardians of enrolled students.