Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Teen's Guide to Autism

This wonderful video was made by a local high school student.  The title says it all.

Congrats to Alexandra Jackman for all of her efforts to put this together!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Jersey Anti-bullying Task Force 2014 Annual Report

On January 26, The New Jersey Anti-bullying Task Force released its most recent annual report.  For those interested, you can read the whole report here.  I think anyone involved or simply interested in how New Jersey schools are dealing with bullying will find parts of the report interesting.  Following are the sections/topics that I found most interesting.

The first point that struck me as noteworthy is that "56% of all incidents occurred in grades 5 through 8."  That information may not be especially actionable, but it did surprise me.

Another interesting topic addressed is the idea that most definitions of bullying (but not the NJ Anti-bullying Bill of Rights) somehow include the idea of of a "power differential."  Simply put, this is the idea that if bullying is occurring, and not simply a conflict, an imbalance in power between the parties is almost certain to exist.  One of the reports recommendations suggests that:
"The NJDOE issue formal guidance to assist practitioners in understanding the significance of power differential in HIB. The formal guidance should also assist practitioners in moving beyond the list of specified characteristics and considering characteristics in a broader, contextual sense that considers the relative positions of the alleged aggressor and target."
The most important recommendation, in the opinion of many of us working with the law daily is this:
". . . the ABTF made two key recommendations related to investigations and investigation procedures. The first recommendation is that the principal, or the designee of the principal, make a preliminary determination that the allegations in each matter, on their face, meet the requirements of the law."
. . .The use of the terms “harassment,” “intimidation,” and/or “bullying,” in and of themselves, shall not determine whether or not the principal shall refer the matter to the anti-bullying specialist."
This has the potential to be a HUGE time saver.  Under current practice, once the word "bully" is applied to a situation in

one form or another, the train has left the station.  The principal in receipt of such a report has been left with no discretion.  The report is forwarded to the anti-bullying specialist and the investigation must follow its full course.

Were the law changed as recommended, I would estimate that at least half of the investigations I do would be dealt with administratively before they reached my desk--with no loss of student safety (including emotional safety), accountability, or consequences.

On the other hand, I believe that law was crafted intentionally to disallow this discretion on the part of administration.  I will be very interested to see what becomes of this recommendation in particular.

The last recommendation that caught my eye was this:
"The NJDOE provide guidance to districts that, if possible, an individual who is counseling a particular student shall not serve as the investigator in any matter in which that student is an alleged target or aggressor and that another ABS be assigned to investigate that case."
Many of my fellow Anti-bullying specialists are counselors, as the law intended.  The problem that this recommendation seeks to remedy is that a counseling relationship should never be adversarial in any way.  Ideally students will trust us to offer them help and support in any way appropriate.  When we sometimes "change hats" to investigate their alleged misbehavior, it seems reasonable to suppose that trust will be damaged.

So that's what I found interesting.  How about you?  As always, your comments are appreciated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Bully Made Me do It!

In one of the more interesting cases I've investigated over the last year or so, I ran across something new: I call it the "Bully Made Me do It!" defense.

The short story is this.  One of our students was caught doing something wrong.  (I'll keep this vague out of respect for the privacy rights of all involved.)

Shortly after the parent was notified, we were informed that the child only did this due to bullying by another child.  I won't drag this out with details as to rights and wrongs.

The fascinating part, to me, is that a parent might seek to explain a child's misbehavior by blaming it on a third party--a previously uninvolved student.

I compare this to the "battered person syndrome."
"The battered person syndrome first rose to prominence in the 1970s, when it was used as a legal defense for abused women who murdered their husbands in a pre-meditated fashion."
You'll obviously notice the glaring flaw.  In the battered person syndrome the victim strikes back at their attacker.  To make the comparison to my case valid, the person would have to be battered beyond all help at home--then go to work and strike out against a co-worker.

Hmmmmmnn. . .

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Confronting Your Child’s Bully?

First off, let me be crystal clear--I don't recommend this.  Yes, I can understand the impulse, and even a thirst for justice that is natural for any parent if their child has been harmed.  But the highlight from the quote below makes it pretty obvious that this is probably not the best choice.
"But you all do not even come close to understanding all the torment they have put my child through." The boy who was bullying her daughter had written that she was “so unattractive he wouldn’t even rape her” on Facebook.  The moms in both of these cases were arrested and expressed remorse for their actions."  (see the whole article here)
While your child certainly isn't happy being bullied,  I doubt that seeing you hauled off in cuffs will improve the situation from his/her prespective.

If, for some reason you simply cannot resist, please at least be sure to remember the following:
  1. Make it happen someplace you have a right to be.  Bus stop?  Sure.  On the bus?  No way!
  2. Keep it to words only.  Don't touch another child.  Don't even stand close enough for them to touch you.
  3. Do not confront without lots of witnesses present.  Of course this won't help you if the witnesses are willing to lie for their friend, but on average, it's safer than having no witnesses at all.
Finally, keep in mind that approaching a child for this purpose is likely to end badly regardless of how you handle it.  Are you really sure you've done every thing you can to handle this through the system?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Call the Anti-bullying Specialist?

I recently got a call from a parent about a situation involving two students.  I say, "a situation" because I really don't know more.  A message was left for me on Friday.  I left a message in return on Saturday.  Now I expect we'll connect on Wednesday when NJ schools re-open (Thanks Sandy).

If you're thinking that's hardly ideal for a situation which may involve bullying, I have to agree.  That's where the title "Why Call the Anti-bullying Specialist" came from.  Because while there are any number of good reasons for such a call, anything requiring urgent or immediate action is NOT a good reason.

Anti-bullying Specialist is really a part-time thing.  Specialists have other jobs (counselor, teacher, etc.)  While the investigations are important, and are of course required under the law, they can be completed over a period of 10 school days.

Of course we don't want any student waiting up to 10 days for relief in a bullying situation.  That's why in a situation believed to be bullying, it's often best to go straight to the principal.  That's the person with the ability to take any immediate action required using any resource available to provide immediate relief.

To use a metaphor (or two?), when your house is on fire, you want to see a fire truck--fast.  The arson investigator may have to come by, but there is no urgency as far as that goes.  Similarly, if you expect immediate relief from bullying, start with the principal.  The investigator (anti-bullying specialist) is not always quick to respond.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Are Anti-Bullying Efforts in New Jersey Counter-Productive?

Izzy Kalman, writing in Psychology Today, speaks about some of the flaws in New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.  While I agree with him on some points, my experience over the last school year does not support many of his assumptions.
"New Jersey, which has proudly passed the most intensive anti-bullying law in the country, just proved my point. It has announced the statistics of bullying complaints during the past school year. What were the results of their law, which many people consider to be a model? Bullying complaints quadrupled! 
Of course part of the increase is because the law encourages people to file bullying complaints."
So he apparently agrees that the increasing reports of bullying are due in part to the new law and publicity surrounding it. I do too.  But then he follows up with this:
"But it is more likely that the law actually caused an increase not only in the quantity of bullying but the intensity."
". . . more likely. . ." based on what?  Your guess?  Really Mr. Kalman, some sort of documentation to support such a claim would be really useful right about here.

Mr. Kalman continues:
"Kids are being taught all the bullying actions they should not be tolerating, like name calling, rumors, gestures, eye-rolling and social exclusion. These things happen to all of us on occasion. However, what causes a person to become a victim of bullying, meaning that these actions happen to them repeatedly, is that they get upset by them. So kids who have received intensive anti-bullying education are more likely to get upset when someone does something mean to them. And when they get upset, the attacks continue and escalate."
I've dealt with a whole lot of students over 20 years as an educator.  I remember them being upset by bullying 20 years ago--and last year.  What I haven't noticed is any change in what sorts of things bother students.  Again, if there is some sort of documentation to support the idea that students who've been taught more about bullying are more easily hurt by it, I am more than willing to consider it.  Mr. Kalman?

Or consider this gem (I can't help the sarcasm.  I'm getting annoyed now.)
"Furthermore, students are instructed to report to the school when they are bullied. Does the reporting process cause hostilities to decrease? No. It results in an immediate intensification. If you and I are kids in school and I report to the school authorities that you bullied me, are you going to like me better?  You are going to want to beat the crap out of me. You will try to get your friends against me. You will try to make me look like scum on Facebook. You will look for an opportunity to complain to the school that I bullied you."
I spoke to 45 alleged offenders last year.  About a third of the instances involved approached our traditional idea of bullying.  In almost every instance, I spoke to the student(s) involved once, and that was the end of it.  In 2 cases, I had to speak to the alleged bully about a second instance.  Two cases out of 45! 
That's a far cry from what Mr. Kalman predicts.

And then there is this gross exaggeration:
"Complying with the law is extremely time consuming and expensive. The investigating and reporting process, which involves meeting with each student separately, meeting with their parents, interrogating witnesses, documenting findings, and writing and filing reports, can easily take upwards of ten or more hours of staff time. If you consider the cost of an hour of staff time, including vacation, medical benefits, pension and school maintenance, it is easily a minimum of one hundred dollars. Thus, handling each bullying complaint probably costs the taxpayer at least one thousand dollars."
An investigation can take 10 hours or more of staff time, but that was very rare for me.  Rare, as in once out of 45 investigations.  Closer to average was maybe 2 hours.  I don't believe staff time averages even close to $100 per hour, even including all related benefits, but even if it does, that would put the cost of my average investigation at $200.

Hey, I am not above taking shots at this law.  It is far from perfect.  But shouldn't  the shots we take be on more than just the loosest of speculations?  I can't say I blame Mr. Kalman, as he clearly has a dog in this fight.

For those who want to check out some of Mr. Kalman's site, please visit  That's my next stop!

Friday, September 21, 2012

So Far, So Good

As you can imagine from the title of this post, so far our school has not had a single case of HIB reported.  That has to count as a win, no matter the reason.  It does make me wonder though, what the reason might be.

I've got two ideas in mind.  The first is simply that the message is getting through that bullying is both wrong and unacceptable.  As we all know, a major goal of the Anti-bulling Bill of Rights is to get us all to focus on improving the overall school climate.  I can't really claim that I could see evidence of change last year.  Perhaps the evidence is accruing now.

Another possibility is that staff are simply more aware of the specifics of the law.  The most obvious example in my mind is the requirement that the act in question is motivated by some particular characteristic.  Please see the bolded portion of an excerpt from the law below.
"Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory [handicap] disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic,"
So if Johnny pushes Billy for no reason at all, that's one thing.  If he pushes him and calls him a skinny moron, that's another altogether, and possibly HIB.  (Both "skinny" and "moron" may be the motivating characteristics.)

If this idea seems as strange to you as it first did to me, please see Do We Have too Many Bullies?  Most importantly, remember that even in the first example Johnny is clearly wrong, and subject to discipline, instruction, etc. as the principal sees fit.  His actions simply don't meet the legal definition of HIB!

With all that said, I would call even this second possible reason for a decrease in HIB a win to a lessor degree.  Increasing staff awareness and understanding of the law would have to be a move in the right direction.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hey Mark, Let's not Overdo the Police Thing

"Mark in the Morning is an online-only column from Star-Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno taking on the day's biggest issues in New Jersey and beyond."
And I am sure Mark usually does a great job taking on these big issues.  I'm not at all sure that he did so in this case.  From Mark in the Morning on
"New Jersey now has an anti-bullying measure on the books that requires schools to report suspected bullying to police, whether it occurs on school property or school time. So if Facebook posts that humiliate a student come to the school's attention, police must be called to investigate."
As an anti-bullying specialist I am very careful about the requirements of the law.  Last school year I completed dozens of investigations, but only contacted law enforcement a single time.  Why just once?  Because in most cases there is no reason to involve them.

While the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights does make a few references to safe schools resource officers and law enforcement in general, their role is relatively peripheral in the normal course of events.

With that said, in certain circumstances it is extremely beneficial to have access to the resource officer, especially when problem behaviors are illegal and/or spill over or originate in the community.  So please do involve the police, but only when you need to.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do We Have Too Many Bullies?

That's not a philosophical question.  It's a legal question.  I can tell you that from my perspective, we have too many bullies.  But what does the law say?

Well, according to this email from the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (also posted online), we may very well have less than we thought.  Not less incidents between students, or less situations to deal with, but less issues that rise to the NJ legal standard of HIB.
"Regarding the definition of bullying, the court noted that the statutory definition of bullying “does not include all violent or aggressive conduct against a student.” The court further stressed the need for the harmful behavior to be reasonably perceived as being motivated by an actual or perceived characteristic. The court held that “harmful or demeaning conduct motivated only by another reason, for example, a dispute about relationships or personal belongings, or aggressive conduct without identifiable motivation, does not come within the statutory definition of bullying.” 
It is essential that school districts only label behavior as harassment, intimidation, or bullying where the bullying investigation reveals that the behavior was motivated by an actual or perceived characteristic."
After almost a year performing as an anti-bullying specialist, I readily admit that the definition included in the law is a bit of a puzzler.  What follows is just an excerpt from the definition of HIB.  (See the whole law, including the whole definition here)
"Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory [handicap] disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, . . .
So what does this mean in practice?  Probably that many issues that we've historically considered bullying.  As strange as it sounds, this law seems to suggest that what you're doing to my child is only half of the issue. To count as HIB, you'd have to be doing it to them for one of the right (or wrong) reasons.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now I Investigate Teachers?

According to my job is about to get a lot more interesting.  According to them, State Senator Diane Allen is proposing legislation that would expand the role of each school's anti-bullying specialist to include the investigation of teachers who are accused of bullying students.

"Under the bill reported incidents of bullying by teachers must be investigated by the school’s anti-bullying specialist within four to ten days."

Hmmmmmmm.  Sounds like a problem in so many ways.

  • I'm investigating coworkers (and I'm not a supervisor in any way).
  • I'm investigating fellow union members.
  • I'm running investigations that may result in people losing their jobs.

If this all sounds OK to you, look into the training your school anti-bullying specialist has received.  Once you have, I doubt that you would expect (or want) that person to do any of the above.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bullies are Adults?

Jeff Edelstein, writing in The Trentonian is apparently ready to have our school aged bullies treated as adults.  I'll admit, like any "zero tolerance" idea, it has some appeal.  I suspect though, that he doesn't spend much time in schools.

He describes one tough situation as related to him by a parent:
"At one point, in a classroom with students and a teacher present, the bully loudly called the other student a derogatory name. In another, the bully posted a threat on Facebook. In both cases, the school sought to deal with the issues in-house, according to the mother. But what if this was real life, and not the Imperial Court of high school? What if I walked into my place of employment and loudly called a female co-worker a nasty name? Well, I’d probably end up fired. And if I threatened her on Facebook?"
If I follow, he wants name-calling turned into a criminal offense.  Can he have any idea how often that occurs?  Or how often it's one best-friend to another with no harm intended.  And even when it is intended, do we dial 5-0 every time?  Last week I had one third grader call another a "scrawny cheater." Book 'em Danno?

And if you notice, he suggests that after name calling in the work place, "I’d probably end up fired."  No mention of police there.  And Mr. Edelstein, we don't get to fire students.  We know that they do a lot of impulsive, sometimes destructive, and sometimes hurtful things.  But we still want to educate them, don't we?
"Turn these “juvenile” claims into adult claims, and I bet within two years, they all but disappear."
Maybe.  But I can assure you that education suffers horribly in the meantime.

Oh, and for the record, I have no issue with police involvement or criminal charges where they are needed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Well, we seemed to get a break during ASK testing.  Almost no new cases of HIB reported.  It was a super time to have a little "break in the action."  As the two weeks went by, I found myself thinking about the year and the incidents of HIB alleged.

I'm in a K-6 building.  When the year began, I was curious to see where the most problems would develop.  With 5 weeks to go, I am no longer curious.

Our 6th grade class was by far the largest problem, followed fairly closely by our 5th.  Below that level, the numbers of cases alleged drop way off, as does the severity of the incidents and the intent of the alleged bullies.

So now I'm wondering, is our 6th grade here typical?  If you have any thoughts, please complete the 1 question survey on the left of the page.


PS  I've included 6th grade with elementary AND with middle school.  Please vote in the poll that reflects your district.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Now We Settle Down to Test

Now we settle down to test,
I pray the bullies take a rest,
If I investigate while testing
My brain will fry--my heart arresting.

On that note, good luck to all of us administering and taking the NJ ASK tests over the next few weeks.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Anti-bullying Funded? Sort of. . .

New Jersey recently ran into a bit of trouble with its Anti-bullying Bill of Rights.  It seems it was illegal.  You can see the story at The Daily Journal.
"The law was derailed earlier this year when the state Council on Local Mandates, ruling on a complaint from local school districts, declared the anti-bullying law to be an unfunded mandate. The ruling meant that the state needed to find a funding source for the measure or it would be invalidated."
If I understand the formula correctly, non-funded = bad, and funded = good.  Not to worry though.  The state came to the rescue.
"Christie, along with several of the bill’s sponsors, announced the fix at a recent news conference. It would create a $1 million grant fund for local districts and a seven-member task force to provide guidance on available resources. Districts applying for the grants would have to offer proof they had sought no-cost training and resources before being awarded any money from the fund."
So if I get this right, there is now $1,000,000 available and 600 or so districts can each apply for a share (an equal $1,666?) after exhausting other options.  Call me cynical, but that doesn't really sound like "funded" to me.

First, $1,666 for A DISTRICT?  That number would be somewhat credible at the school level, providing that the labor involved is "free."

The other glaring problem is "applying for the grants would have to offer proof they had sought no-cost training and resources."  As a taxpayer, I appreciate the reasoning behind that approach.  As a rational thinker, I can't bring myself to see that as "funded."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Beware the Ides of EVVRS

OK, so I'm obviously feeling either a) the need for some drama, b) a strong desire for a weak literary reference, or c), d), or whatever. In any case, I didn't want to let this (the EVVRS) pass without some comment. By "this," I mean the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS).

As some of you may know, this is the means by which schools report certain information to the state of NJ. Schools are ultimately graded on this information, and at least the part relating to HIB will be posted on school's web sites prominently. So why my compulsion to complain? Well, I think it might have been done much better. I can tell you that I for one, had I known what would be required, would have set up and maintained a database since September which would have made this process a breeze.

Beyond the gathering and entering of data though, lies something possibly more important. Schools will be "graded?" How? What "grade" would be acceptable, good, or excellent? Is it absolute numbers that count? Percentages? Trends? Can we earn a star for "most improved?"

Grading? I get it. Grading with no idea of how grades might be calculated or how they might be interpreted? It doesn't make much sense to me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interesting Ideas for Reducing Bullying in Your School

And no--I can't take credit for any of them.  The article here is available courtesy of those at  That's fine, as this blog is not really intended to be about my ideas.  I'm just the only one writing so far. (That was a hint!)
I think you'll probably find at least a few ideas and links in the article (20 Innovative Ways Schools Are Combating Bullying) you'll want to pursue.  I know I did.  I'll be writing more about some of those later.

Oh, but I did have one complaint.  The article begins as follows:
"Bullying always has been a terrible problem plaguing schools in America and beyond, but it took a tragic epidemic of high-profile victim suicides for anyone to actually care about curbing the issue."
Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but that sounds more like a political soundbite than a reflection of reality at any school I've ever worked at.

PS Thanks to Rosa for the great information!

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Folder is Empty

I don't remember what day in September I received my first report of potential HIB to investigate.  I know they came pretty quickly then, and sporadically the whole time since then.

What I DO know, is that from then to now I've never been "caught up."  Oh sure, I've completed all of the needed investigations, filed the paperwork, sent letters home, and even compiled data for our school safety team to evaluate.

The whole time though, I've had a folder centered on my desk, and it's always had more cases in need of investigation.  Until today.  I just wrapped up my last investigation--at least for now.

What's the situation at your school?  Is "caught up" a fairly normal state of affairs, or more like a mythical creature?

Monday, January 23, 2012

HIB: Who Calls the Parents?

As we continue through our first year of dealing with the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, most of us continue to participate in ongoing training, as well as meetings geared to helping us develop what amounts to "best practices" for dealing with suspected incidents of HIB.  These best practices have two broad goals.  The first is to make sure that our students are protected from bullying.  The second is to make sure that as we protect our students, we comply with the law entirely so as to leave ourselves protected from legal consequences.

As I've mentioned before, I continue to be surprised at how far apart we continue to be in terms of how we comply with the law.  One recent example involved the phone call home that we make to parents to let them know an investigation is beginning.  In most of the schools I'm familiar with, the principal makes that call--but not in all of them.

That led to a fair amount of discussion as to the hows and whys of who makes that call.  In my opinion, we could have saved ourselves the time.
"All acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall be reported verbally to the school principal on the same day when the school employee or contracted service provider witnessed or received reliable information regarding any such incident. The principal shall inform the parents or guardians of all students involved in the alleged incident, and may discuss, as appropriate, the availability of counseling and other intervention services."
That comes verbatim from page 11 of the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, and it seems pretty clear to me.  Sorry principals, but  it's your call to make.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who is Training New Employees?

Administrators and board members: It's 9 am. Do you know who is training your new hires?

As we all know, the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights has very specific requirements for training for all adults who may come into contact with a child during their normal school day--and for others as well! I think districts have taken this responsibility seriously and provided that traing. I wonder though, are we training our new employees?

I'll be the first to admit, this didn't cross my mind because I'm a deep, three-dimensional thinker, who is always thinking 5 steps ahead. On the contrary, it only occcurred to me because one employee I know who started in October has not had training. THAT only became apparent when that person reported an incident directly to me, as opposed to reporting it to our principal.

Now the downside in this case is non-existent. It was reported to me immediately and to the pricipal immediately thereafter. But it didn't have to work out so well. What if this person ignored the information? Or waited a week to pass it on? Or (insert complication of your choice here).

So the larger question remains for all of us. What procedures do you have in place to assure that all new hires (contractors included) are trained in the law (especially THIS law) prior to their first day? Or, do you plan on using the "they're-a-new-hire-so-we-haven't-trained-them-yet" defense?

As I've said before, I am no attorney, but that would not be my first choice for a defense strategy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

See Bullying? Tell the Principal!

So now it's November. The Anti-bullying Bill of Rights has been in full force for well over 2 months. And we're still training to deal with it. And that's a good thing.

That became crystal clear at an inservice I attended on November 9th.  The program was good, (Understanding and Applying the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, by the NJ Dept of Education), but the questions were FASCINATING!

Bottom line?  Prior to the inservice:
  • At least one school was reporting all incidents to a PE teacher.
  • At least one school was “pre-reporting” incidents to the principal, who would then decide if an HIB report was warranted.
As to the first, well, it couldn't be any simpler.  The law says that reports go first to the principal.  PERIOD!  (Well, to review more closely, a verbal report to the principal on day 1, and a written report within 2 days.)

As to the second, let's remember WHY we have this law at all.  A major purpose of the law is to assure that incidents aren't swept under the rug.  If the principal is screening prior to reports being made, isn't that in direct opposition to this "no under-rug-sweeping" goal?

Folks, do what you want, but you might want to read through the law so you can protect yourself, at the same time you're protecting your students.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anti-Bullying Training for Counselors and Psychologists

Rowan University is offering anti-bullying training for school counselors and psychologists on October 28th.  Sorry for the late notice.  I just learned of this and registered myself.  I plan on attending sessions A and B.  I'll let you know what I think afterwards.  If you attend these (or any other sessions) I'd love to hear what you think.

"17th Annual Symposium for School Psychologists & School Counselors
School Psychologists and School Counselors are experts in social-emotional and character development (SECD) of students. SECD is essential for safe schools and academic success, but SECD is not viewed as a primary concern in education. The new anti-bullying legislation provides an opportunity for these professionals to assert their leadership roles in school policy and practice and help schools prepare students for the tests of life, and not a life of tests.

Date: Friday, October 28, 2011
Registration Deadline: October 20, 2011
Location: Holiday Inn Select, Swedesboro, NJ
Cost: $139.00
Click here to register online."

UPDATE:  So much for me attending.  I drove out to Swedesboro only to find I wasn't properly registered.  So.  How WAS that workshop?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"We Pledge" Anti-bullying Video

Congratulations to these students and their teachers. I think this video, made on the first day of school, has a powerful and crystal-clear anti-bulling message.

What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

3 Points re Our Anti-bullying Efforts

I attended a meeting last week with half a dozen or so anti-bullying specialists and our district's anti-bullying coordinator. It was a chance to sit down and compare notes AND make sure we're all on the same page as far as meeting every requirement under the law.

For me, a few things stood out. First, there have been a lot of incidents investigated so far. Numbers of 4, 6, and even 12 were mentioned.

The next thing that I came to realize is that this is probably going to be even more time-consuming than we had expected. Not necessarily more difficult, but simply time-consuming. Procedures for notifications are very involved.

The most surprising thing discussed was just how often the bullying behavior was coming from students you might not expect it from. I think most of us (myself included) sort of expect our bullies to fit a certain mold. There might be many variations, but "at-risk" would probably fit most of them.

Guess what. That's not what we're seeing, or at least not all of what we're seeing. Many of the students accused of bullying might be considered model students. And in a way, that's a good thing.

Because they don't like to even be associated with the word "bully," they seem quite willing to give up whatever behavior was causing their fellow students discomfort. Since that is really what this is all about, that seems really fortunate for us all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What Are We Waiting For?

The following is a snippet I just copied from the Anti-bullying Bill of Rights.
"a requirement that the name, school phone number, school address and school email address of the district anti-bullying coordinator be listed on the home page of the school district’s website and that on the home page of each school’s website the name, school phone number, school address and school email address of the school anti-bullying specialist and the district anti-bullying coordinator be listed."

It's bothering me more than a little bit.  Not because it's a big deal, but because it's not.  The right person should be able to take care of this for each school in just a few minutes.  So why don't they?

[caption id="attachment_183" align="alignright" width="300" caption=""Home of the Huskies""]Hurffville Elementary School[/caption]

I just checked the web pages for four local schools.  Only ONE had the required information in place.  Now that might not seem like a big deal, but I've been told in our training that a failure to meet ALL of the requirements of the law might be one quick way to lose a lawsuit over an HIB situation.

I'll say it again.  What are we waiting for?

PS  Congrats to the Hurffville Huskies for having their information posted!



Friday, August 19, 2011

Anti-bullying Act: Cash Cow for Lawyers?

A huge consideration for all of us who will have to deal with new anti-bullying act is the legal concerns. As we all know, most of us have been dealing with bullying to the best of our ability for years now. One of the major changes that will come with the act is additional scrutiny and a heightened possibility of legal consequences.
"According to an NJ Spotlight report, online and out-of-school liability emerged as an area of concern for school personnel during required training sessions held over the summer. Where to draw the line between parental and school responsibility has been a subject of debate for many years. With the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, however, this responsibility and liabilities associated with it are placed solely on school districts and the taxpayers which fund them. Trial lawyers in New Jersey have essentially been given a blank check to sue school districts on behalf of bullied children, no matter how ambiguous the term “bullying” may be.

School districts have an obligation to enforce New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and to be responsive to student bullying. But civil liability ultimately belongs on the backs of bullies, not taxpayers."

via Anti-bullying law puts taxpayers at risk | |

I've said it before, and no doubt I'll say it again, this law could also be called the New Jersey trial lawyer's full employment act.