In NJ, Talking About a Classmate's Head Lice Is a Bullying Offense

February 4, 2013 - 10:47 AM

classroom

New Jersey's anti-bullying law sets up a three-part test to determine if one student has bullied another. (AP Photo)

From The New Jersey Star-Ledger: When it comes to cases of alleged bullying, New Jersey's education commissioner is taking a tough line, upholding two different school board decisions that flagged young students as bullies.

In one case, a Tenafly fourth-grader told another student that a girl had dyed her hair because she had head lice, the newspaper reported. The other case involved an East Brunswick sixth grader who -- in gym class -- said another boy "danced like a girl" and was "gay."

Under New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, all reports of harassment, intimidation or bullying must be investigated by the school anti-bullying specialist in consultation with the principal.

These were the first two cases to challenge the law on its merits.

In both cases, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported, the students' parents appealed to the education commissioner after the school districts found their children had bullied other students. Both cases were heard by Administrative Law judges, then sent to the education commissioner to uphold, modify or deny.

Neither student was suspended. The fourth grader was given an assignment to "encourage greater sensitivity to the feelings of others." The sixth grader got three days of detention.

New Jersey's anti-bullying law sets up a three-part test to determine if one student has bullied another:

First, there must be a "reasonable perception" that the act was motivated either by an actual or perceived characteristic;

Second, the word or deed must have disrupted the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students;

And one or more of the following criteria must apply to the incident:

-- A reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, that the act will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property; or

-- Has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or

-- Creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.