School policy will target pupil bullying


By kurt schellenberger

School policy
will target
pupil bullying

LAKEWOOD — Required by state law to develop anti-bullying policies, the Board of Education approved the first draft of its policy at a May 12 meeting.

Gov. James E. McGreevey signed legislation on Sept. 6, 2002 that requires school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying. The purpose of the law is to prevent violent behavior in New Jersey schools, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus, and to assure a safe learning atmosphere for students.

With input from the community, the board will develop policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying. Guidelines for student conduct and detailed regulations suited to the age levels of the students and the mission and physical facilities of the individual schools will be put to action. The rules of the district regarding student conduct and the policy will be provided annually to students and their parents or guardians. The anti-bullying rules will appear in all publications of the school district’s comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for schools within the district, including the student handbook.

The board’s definition of harassment, intimidation or bullying in the draft policy is any gesture or written, verbal or physical act that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus — motivated by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, gender identity and mental or physical disabilities — that damages a student’s property or insults, harms or instills fear in the student.

School administrators are asked to consider several factors in determining an appropriate response which include the developmental and maturity level of the parties involved, the levels of harm, the surrounding circumstances, the nature of the behaviors, past incidents or past or continuing patterns of behavior, the relationship between the parties involved and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred to the students who commit acts of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

Consequences may range from positive behavior interventions up to and including suspension or expulsion, according to the draft policy.

It is mandatory for all school employees to report alleged violations to the principal of the school. All other members of the community, including students, parents, volunteers and visitors, are encouraged to report any act that may be a violation of the policy. Though a report form is available from the principal of each school, oral reports are considered to be official reports. Reports may be made anonymously, but formal disciplinary action may not be based solely on the basis of an anonymous report.

The principal will decide whether an alleged act constitutes a violation of the policy. If an act is found to be a violation of the policy the principal will conduct an investigation.

During a public comment session at the May 12 board meeting, resident Ray Pohl, who is vice president of the United Adult Communities Residents of Lakewood, asked if Lakewood schools had any problems with bullying.

"No, [but] every district has to have a policy," said board President Chet Galdo.

The board did not announce when further action on the anti-bullying policy may be taken.