Gov. Chris Christie signed the bipartisan “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” into law yesterday, considered by many as one of the toughest in the country. The bill, which has been in the works since last year, gained momentum after the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, whose roommate was accused of streaming video of Clementi’s homosexual encounter.
According to an article in the Star-Ledger, the new law will require training for most public school teachers, administrators and support staff on how to spot bullying and mandate that all districts form a “school safety team” to review complaints. School districts would be graded by the state on their efforts to combat the problem. Administrators who do not investigate reported incidents of bullying would be disciplined, while students who bully could be suspended or expelled. School employees are required to report all incidents, regardless of whether they took place in or outside of school.
In addition, non-profit leaders and New Jersey principals are collaborating on a new program called the New Jersey Bullying Prevention Initiative.
Leaders from The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), Hazelden, an internationally known non-profit foundation, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), say bullying affects students’ health, the school climate, academic achievement, and school liability.
Hazelden helps individuals, families, and communities struggling with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and drug addiction. Bullying is closely linked to drug and alcohol use – both by the child who is bullied and the child who bullies, according to Hazelden officials. According to stats cited on Hazelden’s website, 23% of students in grades 4-6 had been bullied several times or more and 20% had bullied others.
Hazelden, in partnership with Clemson University, has created a new Web site for the award-winning Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) that offers a wide variety of information and resources.
Visitors can find the latest news stories and information about bullying prevention and OBPP, as well as view streaming video, find funding information, and much more. The Olweus Web site also offers specific pages for administrators, teachers, and parents, which include suggestions on how to advocate for bullying prevention programs at their schools.
With more than 50 pages of easy-to-find information, www.olweus.org is an extraordinarily comprehensive resource.
OBPP, geared to students in grades 1-8, is used at the school, classroom, and individual levels and includes methods to reach out to parents and the community for involvement and support. School administrators, teachers, and other staff are primarily responsible for introducing and implementing the program. These efforts are designed to improve peer relations and make the school a safer and more positive place for students to learn and develop.
NJPSA will be working with Hazelden to educate schools about the serious issue of bullying and other related violence issues, and will be serving as the central source in the state of New Jersey for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and Hazelden’s other violence prevention programs. NJPSA will also be partnering with the Educational Information & Resource Center (EIRC) and the New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN) to provide training for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
“Principals play a vital role in creating a positive school culture,” said Jay Doolan, NJPSA’s Director of Professional Services.
To learn more about the New Jersey Bullying Prevention Initiative, and how you can have trained instructors come to your school to train your staff, call (609) 860-1200.