By Marcus Rayner | New Jersey Law Journal
The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, while a positive step toward deterring bad behavior, does not protect school districts from liability under the N.J. Law Against Discrimination.
The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act received overwhelming legislative support in the aftermath of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi’s suicide. It is a positive step toward deterring the type of student behavior that contributed to this young man’s untimely death.
However, as reported in David Gialanella’s Nov. 23 story, “School Policy Against Bullying Won’t Avert Liability, State Says,” this piece of legislation does not protect school districts from liability under the N.J. Law Against Discrimination. The article noted that even districts that already have a zero-tolerance policy against bullying have difficulty reconciling it with their obligation to educate all of their students. Student expulsion carries an additional set of legal hurdles for districts, and for New Jersey’s cash-strapped schools – most of which have already faced daunting budget cuts – the cost can be significant.
School districts have an obligation to enforce New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and to be responsive to student bullying. But it is time to place civil liability where it ultimately belongs – on the backs of bullies, not taxpayers.