By Marcus Rayner | Home News Tribune, to the Editor
Last year, Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide propelled the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act through the Legislature. Nearly everyone agrees that addressing student is a positive step toward deterring the conditions that contributed to this young man’s untimely death. As schools across New Jersey prepare to reopen, however, the unintended consequences of this law may end up may end up exposing school districts to costly liability.
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.