TRENTON – One of the primary architects of the state’s new anti-bullying law is pleased it finally has taken effect, but believes more needs to be done.
Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, called today on the state Department of Education to draw up regulations to help implement the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. The bill has a lengthy list of co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle, including Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, (D-37), Englewood; and Mary Pat Angelini, (R-11), Wall; and Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen, and Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), Edgewater Park.
“The state Department of Education to this day has still not issued detailed guidance and regulations in regard to this law,” said Green after participating at Fort Lee High School with lawmakers, educators and students in a promotional event to direct attention to the new law as the 2011-12 school year gets under way.
Although he said that much of the law (A3466) is common-sense, and a great many school district personnel understand the law, “There are still some schools that don’t get it,’’ Stuart said.
Even some supportive districts still want guidance on how much discretion they have and how to report all incidents, and that leadership must come from the state, Stuart said.
For example, the law mandates that the Department of Education, among other things, must establish a formal protocol to be used by county superintendents in investigating complaints when it is alleged that districts are not obeying the Anti-Bullying law.
Huttle and Buono sent a letter to Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf last week echoing Stuart’s comments.
Although they compliment Education staff for some of their efforts in preparing districts for this law, Huttle and Buono state, “The Department has not yet issued necessary legal guidance corresponding to the new law, either in the form or regulations or guidance.
“School administrators require these official guidelines to resolve uncertainties, answer questions, and allow for full compliance with the law’s provisions.”
The lawmakers ask the Department to have such guidelines in place by Oct. 3.
Education Dept. defends handling of law
Education Department spokeswoman Allison E. Kobus said today that “The department has done, and is currently doing, what it is responsible to do, as prescribed by law.”
“In April Acting Commissioner Cerf issued a memo to school district administrators and charter school lead people that provided a link to guidance and a model policy to assist schools with the implementation of the law. A letter was also sent over the summer. http://www.state.nj.us/education/parents/bully.htm
“In addition, the department also engaged stakeholders in the development of training. Guidance for parents, students and staff is currently in development, as are online tutorials for parents, students and staff.
“The department completed changes to the memorandum of agreement with law enforcement to insure consistency with the new law, and has been working with the AG’s office to make certain that any training or guidance does not provide legal interpretation but clearly conveys what is in the law.
“Statewide training sessions are scheduled for September at which time the department will be training on the law and prevention practices. All districts were given notice and were invited to attend.”