Accomplished attorneys Jeannie Harris and Molly McGee help us in kicking off our “Ask The Expert” series. Molly and Jeannie addressed New Jersey’s recently-established Anti-Bullying Law and more importantly, how to help your children if you feel they are being bullied by schoolmates.
Q: First things first. What does this new law cover?
Molly and Jeannie: The law is designed to prevent any and all harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB) in schools, on school grounds, at school-sponsored events, on buses and even outside of school if the behavior carries over into school. It applies to all K-12 schools in New Jersey. The primary goal of the law is for all schools to provide a safe, happy and healthy learning environment for all students. Every student has this right.
Q: What is the definition of HIB within the law?
Molly and Jeannie: HIB refers to any written, verbal or physical act or gesture – including electronic communications – that, due to a power differential between the aggressor (bully) and the target (victim), has the effect of either harming the student or his property or placing the student in fear of harm. HIB also refers to insulting, threatening or demeaning a student in such a way as to cause a hostile school environment, as well as inciting a group to demean, embarrass or otherwise cause emotional, physical or psychological harm to another student. Actions amounting to HIB can thus be physical, verbal, written or electronic, and can be done individually or as a group.
Q: As a parent, what should you do if you suspect that your child is a victim of HIB?
Molly and Jeannie: If your child seems withdrawn, expresses trepidation about going to school or school events, or is just acting “strange,” it is possible that he/she has been, or currently is, a victim of HIB. Try to get as many details as possible from your child regarding what is happening at school or during school-sponsored functions. Ask if anything negative was said about them or done to them by another student, during or outside of school. Report the behavior, and the names of any potential aggressors, to your child’s teacher and your principal immediately. An investigation will be conducted if necessary.
Molly and Jeannie’s entire article is attached. What to Tell Your Child
In 2011, Jeannie and Molly founded Harris & McGee, LLC, a law firm focusing on educational law and advocacy. Their new headquarters is located at 115 Pine Street in Ridgewood, N.J. For more information, please visit www.harrisandmcgee.com