Commissioner Cerf has confirmed in a letter to legislators that the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) will withdraw a controversial proposal to delete an existing requirement governing a school district’s response to harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB).
The current rule, which will remain in effect, directs districts to respond to HIB by, at a minimum, providing support for targeted students and implementing corrective action in the case of documented, systemic HIB problems.
NJDOE’s May 6 proposal to eliminate this requirement was included with other proposed changes to the state’s HIB regulations implementing New Jersey’s landmark Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (ABR).
In comments submitted to NJDOE on July 3, Education Law Center explained that removal of the requirement “directly undermines the intent and purpose” of the ABR, which was hailed upon its enactment in 2011 as the strongest anti-bullying law in the nation. ELC’s comments, shared with the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention and Garden State Equality, triggered advocacy efforts opposing the change. After being alerted to the proposed regulatory change, several legislators who sponsored the ABR, including Senators Diane Allen and Barbara Buono and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, then wrote to Commissioner Cerf to object.
Commissioner Cerf’s August 15 response to these legislators clarified that “the Department never intended to limit a school district’s range of ways to respond to an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying.” The Commissioner then promised to withdraw the proposed deletion, “thereby returning the code back to its original language for the State Board’s consideration at adoption level.”
“Support for students targeted by HIB and the correction of systemic HIB are critical elements in making New Jersey’s schools safer for all students,” said Elizabeth Athos, the Senior Attorney who wrote ELC’s comments on the proposed change. “We appreciate the efforts of advocates, the continued commitment of the ABR’s sponsors, and the Department’s responsiveness in avoiding a step backwards for students affected by HIB.”
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