Thursday, May 17, 2012

Allen Bill Targets Teacher, Staff Bullies In Schools

In response to several recent incidents of physical and emotional intimidation of students at the hands of school staff both in New Jersey and across the country, New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen (R- Burlington) is proposing legislation that will speed the disciplinary process for teachers and other school officials found to have engaged in bullying, intimidation, or harassment of students.

"My bill extends New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act to bullying that is conducted by teachers and other school employees," said Allen. "Thankfully, these incidents are rare. However, recent events in Cherry Hill and Camden illustrate that current law does not provide for adequately swift or severe punishment of school staff who engage in this behavior."

Allen's legislation prescribes that reported incidents of bullying by teachers must be investigated by the school's anti-bullying specialist within four to ten days. If evidence is found to substantiate the accusation, the school's superintendent must immediately report said finding to the district's board of education, and tenure charges must be filed by the board against the employee within three days. In the case of a non-tenured employee, substantiated misconduct would result in immediate termination and revocation of his or her state certifications.

Tenured employees would enter into an arbitration process with the Commissioner of Education, to last no longer than 30 days, which also could result in the revocation of state certification(s).

The law also requires disciplinary action be taken against employees who fail to report knowledge of misconduct by their colleagues.

"Everyone has a right to due process, but that process must be timely in fairness to both the student and the school employee," Allen stated. "Anyone who is found to have engaged in bullying, intimidation, or harassment of a student must be removed from the classroom quickly and never be permitted to work in a school again. This legislation would also ensure that bystanders who learn of bad behavior but do nothing to stop it are held accountable. New Jersey has been a leader in protecting children against bullying and it's harmful effects, and we must make sure that we extend those protections not only to children bullied by their peers, but also by the professionals who are charged with their education."

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