The arrival of Labor Day marks the end of summer, and the beginning of the school year. Many children greet this date with trepidation, not merely because of the return to a structured environment, but because of their fear of harassment, intimidation or bullying by other students. This unfortunate conduct was the subject of legislation passed in 2010, and known as The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. The act provides definitions of conduct which violates the act, and establishes a framework and requirements for school districts to implement in order to attempt to quell this offensive and troubling behavior.
According to the act, “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 disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students. It is also defined as an act that:
- a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, that it 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;
- 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.
Unfortunately, the mere passage of legislation does not mean that bullying in schools will cease. If you are a parent and you believe that your child is the victim of bullying in school, the state Department of Education has provided a useful link for you here.