As Michael Smerconish’s column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer correctly points out, NJ school officials are likely scrambling on the eve of the new school year to implement the new anti-bullying law signed by Governor Christie this year. To say that this new law is thorough is a gross understatement, and I am sure that school officials would agree that to say it is burdensome for them is also an understatement.
Sure, bullying is a serious issue, and recent highly-publicized cases such as the Tyler Clementi case at Rutgers merited at least some consideration by our Legislature. However, as is often the case with highly-publicized cases, the action taken by them is an overreaction. There are plenty of ways for our government officials to address a tragedy like Clementi’s death, besides hastily passing legislation without adequate consideration of its consequences.
In addition to the serious headache it will cause our schools, it will likely lead to a flood of unnecessary juvenile charges. Why do I say that? Although the statute does not necessarily require police action, it is hard to imagine that it will not be a likely consequence. The bill provides that a school employee must file a report of any act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying within two days. The school administrator’s responsibilities include: appointing an anti-bullying specialist, initiating immediate investigation of any incidents and discipline for failure to due so, and even responding to bullying actions off school grounds.
Most schools have police officers or “school resource officers” now present in schools of a daily basis. Therefore, most school discipline policies now incorporate these officers into their procedures for responding to serious offenses. It is hard to imagine that schools are not either going to utilize these officers in implementing the anti-bullying law for efficiency purposes or more just as a basic “CYA”. This seems even more necessary in terms of reporting incidents outside of school. The natural progression of utilizing police officers is that students will get charged. The progression from there means Juvenile Court and parents being forced to hire a lawyer in addition to other potential penalties.
Again, bullying is a serious issue with potentially grave consequences, but how far do schools and the government have to go to protect our kids? For a copy of the full text of the law, see this link:
For a copy of Michael Smerconish’s column, see this link:
Timothy Farrow, of Dash Farrow, LLP, is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Prosecutor who handles these offense and crimes, misdemeanors, and traffic offense of all levels. When you need experienced, focused, and responsive legal help, call Dash Farrow, LLP at 856-235-8300 or contact us online. We serve individuals and businesses throughout Burlington and Camden County and all of South Jersey